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The Enigma That Is Tony Hibbert

By Marc Davis :  28/01/2008 :  Comments (33) :
On seeing that Tony Hibbert had signed a 5-year contract last week, alongside Osman, I have the overwhelming feeling of... WHY? Back-track a number of years and Hibbert signs alongside a certain Wayne Rooney and I remember the feeling of excitement, two youngsters, a future great and finally a decent right back, a youngster making his way through the ranks and much talk of a future England right back. To be fair since Gary Stevens, we had been looking for one ? Steve Watson is the only name I can remember that did a decent job, when he wasn't playing up front for Wally Smith. So what happened?

Personally, I don't think much has changed, having been a regular as far back as I remember and with little challenge coming anywhere from his role, Hibbert has pretty much made the position his. And that is where the issue has been for me. If you go into your job today with there is the knowledge there is no one else out there to take over if you fail, would you overly bother? If you had a guaranteed job, would you not take the foot of the gas, even if subconsciously?

When Hibbert broke into the first team he was fresh, young and looking to prove himself. He was being talked up as future star along with Rooney and he come in the side and did a great job. Yet now he is moaned about week after week, with the occasional praise and many quarters have been questioning why Moyes has resigned, especially for 5 years ? and I think I am closer to the England team than he is....

So whose to blame for this? Moyes for not giving him competition in his role? Us the fans for slating him so, week after week? Or his he a victim of his early potential? I don't blame anyone really, I honestly think it is circumstances. Moyes probably would have loved to have signed someone else to play at right back or at least give him some competition at some points over the past five years, which to a degree Neville has, but there are two factors against that.

Firstly, I honestly cannot think of another proven, established right back at a price we could afford (I know many of you are screaming at the screen, some young right backs name that plays for a Championship team ? but whose to say they will follow the potential, in much the way Hibbert has not?).

Secondly and I think probably more to do with it, with the limited funds we have, could you imagine the outcry if we spent those limited funds on a rightback?! There was murmurs of discontent when Yakubu signed ffs (cannot deny I was not convinced on him - glad to be proved wrong), so imagine £5/6 million being spent on, for example Stephen Carr a few years back. Let's face it, if we had a choice even now we would rather a 20-goal-a-season player / creative midfielder than a replacement right back.

So is it us the fans' fault? Not in any way whatsoever. We want the best for Everton and why shouldn't we? Having supported them for nearly 23 years now, I am fed up with not winning anything and being spoken down to by the big four and the media ? my only taste of success being the 86/87 League, which I kind of remember, but never realised how much it should have meant, and the 95 FA Cup. We want the best in every position, but realistically this is not the way it works ? unless you're Chelsea.

My thoughts are that Moyes is playing it clever with Hibbert. Maybe he sees the opportunity with Neville coming to give Hibbert a challenge, someone to push him to discover that early form? Maybe in a years time we will be applauding Moyes on his man-management and how Hibbert is now that right back we wanted/deserved ? then again maybe not and Jags was supposed to be the new improved right back? Who knows?

Failing all of the above, and I think more realistic, is that Hibbert would be a good back up right back to Neville/Jags or future signing and this is what Moyes is thinking ? why let him go and buy another reasonable right back? At the end of the day we need to build a squad and I don't think anyone can say he is not a good squad player.

All I do know is that you don't turn into a bad player over night and maybe as the team has got better, Hibbert has not followed suit and got left behind? If that is the case I think Hibbert's future could remain as a squad player or elsewhere, five-year deal or no five-year deal.

Reader Comments

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Lee Mandaracas
1   Posted 28/01/2008 at 15:32:55

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Great article Marc. I agree with your points but am even more concerned with the increased pay deal I am hearing about. Not only has Hibbert not warranted an increase (more likely a decrease) with his frequent occupation of no man’s land, awful distribution and standing off opposing players but to hear the disparity of earnings may be unsettling a star defender in Joleon Lescott worries me immensely.

Lescott has been a revelation for us and I, for one, would not want him to go anywhere. Particularly not as a result of comparison of earnings with arguably our consistently poorest first team regular.

On the plus side, I have said before and will continue to say that Hibbert is one of the best tacklers of the ball in the division. Unfortunately, he relies on that far too often by being left standing, by his own mistakes or by leaving the challenge so late it has to be spectacular. Far too often, none of these happen and we are exposed. I really can’t understand why he would get more money for regularly disappointing. Does anyone else know of a working role where this applies? If so, gizza job!
Connor Rohrer
2   Posted 28/01/2008 at 15:57:12

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Hibbert deserves his contract. He may not be the most naturally gifted right back in the world but he does and job and a player like him is valuable. He’s also a Blue, loves the club and simply doesn’t want to leave.

Hibbert’s problem is Neville. Neville is the better right back therefore he plays ahead of Hibbert but when Hibbert does play Neville plays in midfield which weakens the team. Hibbert never actually plays when we line up with our best and most creative midfield. When Neville plays in midfield we don’t keep the ball therefore there is more pressure on Hibbert to show attacking instincts which he just isn’t good at. If he was played with the likes of Cahill, Arteta, Pienaar, Osman and Fernandes in front of him I’m sure he’d be alot better. He could just give it to them and get on with his defending.

But saying all this he should always be a squad player and nothing more. If we have injury problems then he should come in for Neville but he shouldn’t start.
Jay Campbell
3   Posted 28/01/2008 at 16:17:45

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He couldn’t mark Dot Cotton.
Mark Stone
4   Posted 28/01/2008 at 16:25:19

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Conor I?ve thought the same for a while mate. Your distribution can only be good if those you?re playing with make intelligent runs and find/create space. I often wonder who Hibbert is supposed to pass to when he?s given the ball and there?s no-one ?on?.

I like the lad, I?m glad he got a new deal and I?m sure he?ll continue to be the dependable hard working right back that I see most times he plays.
Jonny Brown
5   Posted 28/01/2008 at 17:03:35

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But he did mark Martin Petrov remarkably well. Dot Cotton must have had a new hip if she is better than him.
Rob Jones
6   Posted 28/01/2008 at 17:01:33

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where does all this criticism come from? I know he isn’t as good as he possibly could have been but have you been ignoring him for the last month or two? He’s really starting to pick up his form now so why don’t we give him a break and support him instead.
Ben Toseland
7   Posted 28/01/2008 at 17:16:08

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What rubbish! Hibbert is a very good defensive full-back-far more accomplished than the over-rated Neville.And hasn’t Moyes just signed ’a future star ’ in the position from Plymouth Argyle?
Ged Dwyer
8   Posted 28/01/2008 at 17:25:09

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There should be a new mailbag for all the sheep to write to called ’Love Moyes, Love Ground Move To Kirkby, Love To Pick On Tony Hibbert’.
Stuart Downey
9   Posted 28/01/2008 at 17:41:01

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Ha, one thing caught me there, has Moyes re-signed Tony Hibbert? Or has he resigned (himself to) Tony Hibbert???

I?m a fan anyway, I think he?s good enough and he?s one of the best in his defensive role. Not worth spending money yet until we improve other positions. It really isn't the most important debate.
Paul McCann
10   Posted 28/01/2008 at 17:43:56

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The thing is that Hibbert’s problem isn’t his marking, it’s his distribution. I thinks he’s probably good enough for where we are now, but probably a bit short if we are to progress.

It’s just the club being sensible though. He’s obviously good back at full back up at the very least, so there’s little point in letting his contract run down and loosing him for nothing. I think we’kll have to get the cheque book out in the summer to keep a few of the other lads. Hopefully the CL money should cover it.

I’ve heard that Dot Cotton’s very handy, models herself on Socrates. Not as good as Big Mo though.
Anthony Lamb
11   Posted 28/01/2008 at 18:09:46

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With regard to Tony Hibbert I agree with the points raised about his initial potential etc when his tackling ability and tenacity etc were first class. An issue that surely needs examining is the quality of the actual coaching that goes on not just at Everton but elsewhere. How is it that a lad can be playing in the top division for so long and actually appear "be going backwards" as regards the fundamental abilities of control, touch, crossing and passing ability? Not only Tony, but we have Phil Neville who has actually played in one of the most successful teams in recent history AND over 50 times for the national team and STILL has not mastered the basics? Surely serious questions have to be asked of the technical skills and demands of those who actually claim to do the coaching? Even up to a few years ago it seems that one could get by in certain positions even with some glaring deficiencies but today it seems that full-backs/wing-backs simply have to have a better all round technical ability especially at Everton’s stage of development where weaknesses are very quickly shown up when possession is lost too easily. All as I do know is that any coach(es) worth their salt should be embarrassed at their failures to improve a lads ability in the way that Tony’s have perhaps failed to be developed and they should certainly be held to account. I really do wonder what on earth goes on as regards individualised coaching set ups during the week. But what cannot be denied is Tony’s total 100% commitment to the teams in which he has played and thus also to the club. In addition I wonder just how serious was his close season illness and its repercussions? He does need support from the club’s fans but most certainly he needs it most from his coaching staff.
David Reid
12   Posted 28/01/2008 at 18:07:17

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"a number of years and Hibbert signs alongside a certain Wayne Rooney and I remember the feeling of excitement, two youngsters, a future great and finally a decent right back, a youngster making his way through the ranks and much talk of a future England right back". Do you remember the guy who signed along with Best for Man U? English right back who wants to play for that over rated bad lot no doubt there queueing for that job, the stick yo guys give them. "If you go into your job today with there is the knowledge there is no one else out there to take over if you fail, would you overly bother? If you had a guaranteed job," And there’s me thinkin a few months ago Captain Phil was being touted for the job."He was being talked up as future star along with Rooney" ref Best & by who? the press talked Keegan, McClaren & Big Sam etc up for England and look what happened, "and I think I am closer to the England team than he is."... get your boots cleaned Fabio’s comin. Wake up & smell the coffee we are not on a par with the top 3 due to money but we are getting there. Look @ the dark side they are were they are because of the universal fan base gathered during the 90s & there champions league success they are getting further behind the top 3 any honest red will tell you.Question from 95 who not including the top 3 have one the premiership? Success breads success again our day will come less than 12 mths ago some wanted Moyes out who would replace him now? I beleive he will be interviewed for the ManU job when Fergie goes. Come on let’s be positive we are supporting a team who has no more relagation fears, on there way up & reached a cup semi. Proud to be a Blue and happy with Tony Hibbert
Jack Farrell
13   Posted 28/01/2008 at 18:52:42

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Nice article mate.
To be fair to Hibbert he’s been playing pretty good recently.
Lets hope he keeps it up.
Jay Campbell
14   Posted 28/01/2008 at 18:58:26

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Paul McCann he?s grim mate.

I wouldn't have given him an extra fiver a week, he?s crap. End of.

What the fuck can Moyes do though?? It?s not as if our Board came up with large sums of money to get extra bodies in is it?

While we have the cramp twins at the helm, his hands will always be tied I?m afraid.
jonny voodoo
15   Posted 28/01/2008 at 19:48:22

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I think Hibbo is a decent pro. Moyes rates him and i trust moyesy. The thing about hibbert is that he isnt a spectacular player. he is the kind of player who can have a quietly effective game. Because he is a good tackler he can quite often stop things from happening with a simple challenge and therefore we dont appreciate the danger that could have arisen had he not made the challenge. It would be interesting to see what percentage of the goals we have conceded have come from left wing crosses. i bet there arent many. his distributon isnt brilliant but i agree with the point about neville. quite often arteta is playing down the right and because he tends to cover all over the pitch he may not always be an outlet and because arteta is such a threat he is closed down immediately when the ball is coming near him. Hibbo is more in the carsley mould, a player who goes quietly about his job. im glad he is still her
Brian Donnelly
16   Posted 28/01/2008 at 19:34:03

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Like one or two have already said, a lot of the time he has no one to pass to. Carsley doesn?t want the ball and one or two others are just as likely to pass it back to him, if he passes to them. We know his limitations going forward, but he should get a lot more praise for his defensive qualities.

If he had let Wright-Phillips force him into heading an own goal, we would never of heard the end of it. Much as I like Lescott, he has made numerous defensive mistakes this season, whereas Hibbert has hardly made any. Yes, some people have got on Hibbert?s back for certain goals, where he should have defended slightly better, but real defensive mistakes ? not many (the Liverpool game was probably the worst).

For some people, Hibbert can never do anything right, whereas for some of the other players their mistakes are just ignored. I just think a bit of fairness is needed. He is certainly a good squad player and I am glad he?s here for another 5 years.
Dave Lawley
17   Posted 28/01/2008 at 20:15:35

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Hibbert is the type of player we need to be signed up long term to fill in when we need him, just like Man U have players like Fletcher and Wes Brown, by no means stars but capable and willing to sit on the sidelines for a couple of months a season, and I think integral to Man U. We just need young Gosling to be the player we all hope he can be. Although Hibbert is an excellent defender, it's just the rest of his game that needs work. I reckon good business signing him long term, and he could improve the rest of his game yet.
Dick Fearon
18   Posted 28/01/2008 at 20:17:08

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Hibbert is first and foremost a fullback, as such can anyone tell me the last time he was given the run round by a direct opponent.
As a general rule you find the Ronaldos of this world steer clear of Hibbos wing.
There are better passers but not many fullbacks get forward as much in support.
He is far from being an enigma, with Tony, what he is is what you get. A honest hard working great tackling trier.
Richard Grisdale
19   Posted 28/01/2008 at 21:12:16

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Hibbert plays better when he has arteta in front of him... instead of hoofing it forward, he will try and find arteta when ever he can....he knows if he gives it to arteta, most of time, arteta wont loose it. Also against city, which was his best game for sometime, he was goin on the overlap and supporting arteta. We all know hes a solid defender, but providing an overlap is so important in todays game. Playing with arteta will defo help, its like arteta shows him where to run and creating space for him to exploit...
Conor Feeney
20   Posted 28/01/2008 at 21:26:32

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I think it was a good deal, we need him and he rarely lets us down.
Dan Murphy
21   Posted 28/01/2008 at 21:45:54

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Who were you supporting that won the league in 86?

Your memory is about as sharp as your analysis of football. Hibbert knocking is boring.
Steve Carter
22   Posted 28/01/2008 at 22:21:41

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Couldn’t have put it better, Brian Donnelly. Tony does a good job of the job that he is primarily employed to do: defend the left flank. Joleon has been very impressive, but his lapses in concentration have lost us games: e.g being outjumped and outwitted by midgets in the air: SWP’s and Owen’s free header for the skunks come immediately to mind.
Rich Boyston
23   Posted 28/01/2008 at 21:18:15

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Marc, if you have been supporting the club for 23 years then you would have Everton winning diddly squit in 1986.

As for Hibbert, he appears to play well when the team play well, he was outstanding against City and long may it continue.
Benji Learman
24   Posted 28/01/2008 at 23:29:46

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The past couple of months Tony Hibbert has improved so much as a player! People have a go at him, yeh he makes the odd mistake, but when arteta would make a mistake, would we give him as much stick as some would Hibbert? no is ur answer. Hibbert is more or less in the squad week in week out, surely hes doing something right to keep earing his place in the side?..... and personally I think he is. His peformance against city was fantastic, he marked Petrov like flies on shit! Stopped Petrov geting in on a chance of scoring! People give the likes of hibbert a bad time, and I don't understand why? Do you think a player gains confidence by hearing things shouted at him during the match? How do expect a player to produce with abuse flying at him, Hibbert proves himself every week buy getin his name in the starting line up, surely, he must be doing something right and that is why Moyes picks him week in week out!!
Mark Cassin
25   Posted 29/01/2008 at 08:08:26

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I don’t really understand the need for an article on this. Hibbert is the reserve right back.

With Neville being 31(?) now he probably only has 2 more years left in him which will mean we will more than likely have Gosling step up or sign a replacement.

Hibbert is just a reserve player who along with Valente are our 2nd choice full backs.
Chris Briddon
26   Posted 29/01/2008 at 09:09:10

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Tony Hibbert's ability hasn?t changed, what has changed is the expectations of the supporters for the team.

When he arrived on the scene, a good reliable solid, defensive full-back was what we wanted.

Now the level of the team has moved on, so we demand all our players to be able to pass the ball around neatly and play 50 yard pinpoint passes ? which has never been his strong point.

At present he does a good job at defending, which ? until we find a better option, is after all what right backs are first and foremost supposed to do.
Dominic Duerden
27   Posted 29/01/2008 at 10:57:49

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Hibbert is not good enough.

He cant head the ball , is crap when he has the ball and his positional sense is poor.

He is targetted by the opposition in the air. He can tackle and is pretty quick , but that is not enough to justify a starting place in the team. Phil Neville is by far the better right back. get rid moyes, sell to Brum!
Martin Wallace
28   Posted 29/01/2008 at 11:27:54

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Hibbert ain?t my favourite and it?s clear I?m not alone. But he’s also someone who’s a bit weedy and quiet and, as such, is perhaps an easy target.

I think what it all boils down to is that it’s frustrating to watch him, as he could easily be better if he only showed a little more composure and confidence.

This to me is his greatest deficiency and the underlying reason why his distribution is so poor ? he panics. (It doesn?t seem to cross his mind that losing possession so cheaply just puts us back under pressure).

Maybe this is an aspect of his personality and we?re stuck with it but maybe he needs more reserve games where there?s less pressure.

In any half-decent team being a full back isn?t just about defending.
Peter Laing
29   Posted 29/01/2008 at 11:25:52

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After being conned by Gerrard in the Derby for me it showed the flaws in Hibbert’s character, for one he is too honest and never hides, and the other is he seems to make wrong decisions at key moments in a game. If we are ever 3-0 up against the shite again maybe Hibbert can exact some retribution against that twat Gerrard for his unsportsman like behaviour towards Everton over the year’s (Naysmith etc), a nice two footed lunge around the shin would be about right.
Lee Spargo
30   Posted 29/01/2008 at 12:41:09

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If we want to move forward, then Hibbert is simply not good enough to be a 1st Choice at right-back. He’s a squad player at best. To me, it simply doesn’t make sense to offer a 5-year contract to a back-up player. 2-3 years would be more appropriate.
Arthur jones
31   Posted 29/01/2008 at 15:53:25

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Tony Hibbert is a very good tackler as has been mentioned in previous posts , He seems to play better when he has a specific player to mark , petrov v City , Ronaldo never once went near him v manure at Goodison ,Evra was on their left flank for that game and never done a thing , Downing at Goodison never got a touch , All dangerous players well taken care of by Hibbo , but his distribution is awful at times , although against city he got a few good crosses in , surely his team mates must be aware of this , it’s not rocket science then for one of them to come closer to collect the ball ? DM is not stupid , if he didn’t think Hibbo was worth a contract , he would not have got one , he moved Killa, Beats and Naysmith out , they were still under contract .
Dean Gwilliams
32   Posted 29/01/2008 at 22:13:57

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i honestly think that Hibbert’s lack of form and development has only stemmed since the beginning of last season when he was out with that weird tropical parasite thing (or whatever he had) - can you imagine the effect that must have had on his body? i imagine the after-effects were at least some of the cause for his post-parasite injury troubles last season - i remember thinking before it happened that he was a cert to be getting called up for England then.
Michael Tracey
33   Posted 29/01/2008 at 23:43:55

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Everton won the league for the 86/87 season so what Marc wrote is correct! Also Hibbert is not good enough and I can not believe that he was given such a big contract extension. One of the main problems with him is his cards. Why is he not playing tonight again? Considering the amount of games he has missed he shouldn’t have a card problem! Also he is caught out of position too much and can not pass or cross a ball. But hey I guess these are just basic things a good footballer needs. He is an Evertonian through and through so he should automatically get a game! Hey Bill Kenwright is an Evertonian through and through lets give him a game!

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