Tony Hibbert's rise into the Everton first team came as no surprise, as he had
been a consistent performer for Everton Reserves in the late nineties. He was also a
member of the Blues' 1998
FA Youth Cup winning
side. He originally played in midfield, but quickly adapted his game to suit the right-back spot.
As he matured, he developed into a solid and dependable presence, a mainstay in David Moyes's squad during the first few seasons of his managerial tenure. Quick and an impressive exponent of the art of jockeying and last-ditch tackling, "Hibbo" emerged as an unspectacular but reliable performer in the Everton jersey and was at one point being put forward as a potential England international.
Tony's hard work and consistency in the Reserves was shown in his
impressive debut for the Blues away at West
Ham, in a 2-0 win in 2001. He was calm on the ball as well as
showing his willingness to come forward, and winning a penalty which
helped the Blues to a vital win.
Soon afterwards against Bradford,
Hibbert showed he was a natural at right-back. He was cool and
confident, effective, and keen to get forward, getting down
Everton's right wing to put crosses in. But Walter Smith overlooked
this young talent and he didn't figure again that season.
Tony finally started to make inroads into the first team as
the 2001-02 season developed, with some excellent appearances against Liverpool
that really put the supporters behind him.
Early in the 2002-03 season, Everton made a great media
play out of tying a pair of ex-youth players with immense promise into
long-term contracts. An uncomfortable Wayne Rooney was placed
squarely in front of the throng of assembled journalists, desperate to
hear what he had to say. Tony Hibbert was also there. In true
Hibbert fashion he just turned up, got on with his job out of the
limelight, and left without a fuss.
In the current game, the traditional threat of the winger has very much
been nullified by the pace of the modern full back who must have the awareness to contend with late
runs from midfield and early runs into the channels from forwards. Hibbert
has always had the pace, the mobility and the know how to do this, is never easily beaten and, once opposing players have
the measure of him, they know they are in for a hard game if they want to
get past him.
The fact that England never came calling was perhaps down to his attacking limitations which have always seemed to prevent him from becoming the complete fullback. His long-ball distribution, one-dimensional approach when going forward,
somewhat erratic – though improving – crossing, and limited vision have at times made him something of a scapegoat, particularly as Moyes steadily ramped up the quality throughout the squad.
Nevertheless, his future at Goodison never really looked in question, even when Phil Neville was signed from Manchester United in 2005 and began to offer the side a more rounded game. Hibbert succumbed to a knee injury soon afterwards, however, that would sideline him for months, by which time
Neville had become the favoured choice in that position.
With Everton becoming a force to be reckoned with in the top half of the table in the 2007-08 season and Moyes looking to add more quality to his ranks, Tony settled into more of a squad-player role as the Blues powered their way into the latter stages of the Uefa Cup, filling in when Neville was required by injury and suspension elsewhere in the side to move into midfield.
Then, against Arsenal
he continued to play after suffering medial knee ligament damage and the
subsequent surgery put him out of action for four months, well in to the
That campaign was affected by injury, which was used as an
excuse for some memorably lacklustre performances, none more so than the
FA Cup Final, when Florent Malouda tormented him in the Wembley heat and prompted him into a rash trip
that earned Hibbert an early yellow card. He was
hauled off at half-time, but the damage had been done, and
Everton could not deliver, despite scoring the early goal.
Hibbert recovered from this and stepped up the next season, deputising at times in central defence when the
team was ravaged by yet another injury and selection crisis. The home-grown Blue
even got the chance to don the captain's armband and become Everton's leading
player in Europe with 20 appearances under his belt after he captained a
team of kids against BATE Borisov in the final match of the Blues' Europa League group phase.
Out for a couple more months with an injury until March 2010, Tony seemed to have a new lease of life when he recovered — perhaps after watching the exploits of his understudy Seamus Coleman, who epitomised the new breed of full-back that also can perform the wingback role.
Hibbert began his eleventh consecutive season as a senior Everton player in 2010-11 but it turned out to be stop-start as he had been suffering with an ankle injury, which limited him to few first team appearances since October. But, after sitting on the bench through the middle of the season, midfield injuries once again forced Moyes to move Neville forward and Hibbo was back in the team.
His form was good too, and he was happy to celebrate his 10-year anniversary as a senior player – despite never having scored a goal, a record for an Everton outfield player — and continued to hold down a first-team place the following season, 2011-12, as the last member of Moyes's first match in charge still playing with the Club.
He was honoured going into his 12th year at the club with a testimonial against AEK Athens – a game in which he famously scored from a free kick – but he made just 10 appearances over the following two seasons as injuries continued to blight him in his early 30s.
Nevertheless, that did not stop Roberto Martinez granting him a two-year
contract extension, through 2016.
Everton's longest-serving player at the time would go on to have rather
a difficult 15th season with the Blues first-team, although he played
more times than in the previous two seasons combined. Even wasn't on the pitch much because of a long-term injury his influence in the dressing room was not long on his manager:
“It is a good job that he has that experience and that he is part
of the furniture at Finch Farm in the way that he is Mr Everton, so
that helps,” Martinez said, when asked if Hibbert has found it tough
being out for so long.
“But it has been a frustrating period for him. He has had some of
his most impressive performances in the last two years and I will
always remember his performance against Wolfsburg away from him – that
was Tony Hibbert at his very, very best."
But a knee injury would lay him low just after pre-season training
got under way in 2015, and he was sidelined for months. The veteran
defender didn't feature at senior level until near the end of the
season but he played the first 45 minutes for the Under-21s in April
as they beat Manchester City 1-0 at Goodison Park.
He then appeared for what could be his final game at the end of a
long and loyal career as a fan favourite at Goodison Park when he substituted for Muhamed Besic at
Bournemouth to a great reception from the crowd, and gave an object lesson in the art of solid
He suffered another injury shortly afterwards, however, and was released by the club along with his '98 FA Youth Cup team-mate Leon Osman when his contract expired in June 2016.
Note: Everton Career
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