PAUL HANLON has always been happy to have Lewis Stevenson around. From welcoming him into the dressing room more years ago than he cares to acknowledge, to helping him through hundreds of games together in the Hibernian backline, the pair have been through it all together at Easter Road.

There may be few summits left to scale at the club for either man, particularly Stevenson, who Hanlon is only too happy to point out is a couple of years his senior. He may well reach yet another landmark in his outstanding career at Hibs tomorrow night, though.

Should he be selected in Jack Ross’s side to travel to Celtic Park, Stevenson will rack up his 500th appearance for Hibs, a remarkable achievement which will further cement his status as a club legend. And for Hanlon, it couldn’t be happening to a nicer, or more deserving, guy.

“First and foremost he is a guy who has been a joy to work with all through my Hibs career,” Hanlon said.

“When I first came in at 16 years old, he was a couple of years older and he was the first one to welcome me in and look after the younger boys. He has always been someone I’ve looked up to.

“He has been great to work with throughout all these years. Most of his career he has been a left back and I’ve been at centre half so we’ve had to work together quite a lot.

“His record speaks for itself really, in terms of what he done for this club and the trophies he’s won. There’s no-one that matches him and that says it’s all really.”

While there might not be many to match him in terms of his overall contribution to Hibs, there are plenty who have tried to surpass him in the pecking order for the starting XI over the years, and that is as true today as it ever was.

The emergence of Josh Doig this season has represented the biggest threat to Stevenson maintaining a regular spot in Ross’s side, but far from being put out by the threat the young upstart represents, Stevenson has been more concerned with encouraging him.

“It’s happened so many times in his Hibs career that players have maybe come in to challenge his position and he’s kept working hard and stayed in the team,” said Hanlon.

“That’s why he is going to get to such an amazing landmark in his career.

“He knows himself, he’s getting a bit older and there are younger players coming through. But he’s the first one who turns round and tries to help them as well. It just shows you what a great guy he is, so selfless in everything he does.

“He deserves all the plaudits if he gets to that 500 mark on Monday night.”

Hanlon doesn’t necessarily think that it will be 500 and out at the end of the season either, encouraging the club to offer him a new contract.

“I think he’s definitely got it him, I’m sure the club would be interested in giving him a new contract,” he said.

“I think he’s got plenty left in his legs to be able to perform for another few years yet, regularly. “Alongside that he will be helping the young boys to kick on as well, which he always does.

“He’s a great character to have in the squad and a great role model for these young players. Just the way he acts every day, he’s so consistent and looks after his body so well.”

It isn’t only on the pitch that Hanlon and Stevenson combine brilliantly, with their Hanlon Stevenson Foundation ploughing money into the local community over the past year or so.

“We have the same sort of ideas,” Hanlon explained. “We had some money spare from the testimonials and had ideas about how we wanted it to be used and how we could use it to help young people specifically.

“Alongside our testimonial teams we managed to put the Foundation together. It was a good first year we had and we spent £50,000 on different projects and initiatives for young kids.

“It’s took a bit of a back seat with Covid at the minute in terms of fundraising, which has been difficult. We try and build that back up again when the time is right.”