Tony Hibbert – Everton’s Ryan GiggsBy: Brian | March 30th, 2011
Thursday 31st March 2011 marks the 10th anniversary of Tony Hibbertâs debut for Everton( a 2-0 win away at West Ham stats fans). A significant milestone Iâm sure you will agree, but one that will largely go unnoticed by the rest of the footballing World.
Well because Hibbertâs limitations as a footballer are there for all to see â he is not Roberto Carlos or Cafu, a right-footed Leighton Baines or even as good at attacking as Phil Neville. But the Ryan Giggs comparison in the headline isnât totally inaccurate either.
After all to stick with the same side for a decade, despite not always being a regular, says something about his attitude, professionalism and loyalty â a word not often used when talking about modern day âwhere-my-next-signing-on-fee-coming-fromâ footballers.
Believe it or not I actually thought attacking was one of Hibbertâs strengths when he first broke into the team. Though back then we did have the likes of David Unsworth, Alessandro Pistone and Steve Watson in the full-back positions â hardly what you would call rapid.
So Hibboâs youthful enthusiasm was a refreshing change and he symbolised the fresh start Moyes was looking to make with the club, dispensing the aging side we had under Walter Smith. Hibbert was well and truly in Wayne Rooneyâs shadow, though I suspect that is just the way he likes it.
Local lads tend to get that bit of extra support when they first break into the team and most fans would admit it is that extra bit special when a Liverpool born player pulls on the shirt and does well.
But being local is a double edged sword as once they are in the team, they often become the target of the boo boys when things arenât going well â one of the gameâs great frustrations.
I suspect this is because they put themselves up there to be shot at. They wonât shirk away from the ball when things arenât going so well because they care so much â almost too much â and it invites criticism from the Goodison crowd.
Hibbert, like current team-mate Leon Osman and former Blues Unsworth, Michael Ball, Franny Jeffers et al all suffered at the hands of a frustrated home support, who were â and still are – in despair at the clubâs chronic under-performance over the past 20 years.
But while some have struggled to cope or let their frustrations get the better of them Hibbert has continued on his merry way, keeping his head down and working his hardest every week.
I think we all were disappointed when his progress stalled, he was never the attacking full-back we hoped he would be. But Hibbert instead grew to learn his limitations, he knows he will never be a player like Baines, and he knows he will probably never score (but if he does â we riot!) But knowing your strengths and weaknesses is part of developing as a player and we in turn also learnt what he could and couldnât do. And we love and hated him for it in equal measure.
I would despair when I saw him drift infield towards his centre back, ball-watching, while the left winger would stealthily move into the space behind him. I would join in the âf***ing hell Hibbertâ chants when he ballooned a cross over the bar for a goal kick. But I love it when he could go in for a crunching tackle, leaving the opponent on the floor in a heap while coming away with the ball. And if he ever does score, I will celebrate like we have won the European Cup.
He will never go down as one of Evertonâs greatest players but that is no reason for him not to be remembered fondly. He has never once complained, swore at the crowd, moaned at the ref or argued with the manager (in public at least). He has behaved pretty much as we all would do if we were given the chance to play for our beloved club â with professionalism, dignity and pride in the shirt.
And for that reason, should he be awarded a testimonial, we should turn up in our droves to say thanks.