THERE is no sign of let-up.
Little indication of wear and tear.
And no calls for him to quit while he is ahead.
After 309 appearances for Everton, Tony Hibbert, this relentless, dogged and hard tackling full-back, looks as relevant to the Blues as ever.
David Moyes says as long as he remains the manager then Hibbert will be in his squad.
It is as meaningful a tribute as you are likely to hear as the club acknowledge the player’s dedication in this evening’s testimonial match against AEK Athens at Goodison Park.
The 31-year-old is wise enough to know that there will come a day when he can no longer shackle the Premier League’s flying wingers and that it will be time to retire to the Legends’ Lounge.
But for now, that does not appear remotely close.
And though Hibbert is not one for the spotlight or accolades, when that final game arrives he will allow himself to reflect on his Everton days with pride.
“I’d like to think so,” he said, when asked if he could look back on his 11 years with pride.
“Every game I have gone into I have given 100 per cent. When the day comes that I feel I cannot do that, then that will be it. But, as it is now, I am still hungry and feel that I can still perform. My body feels fine. Playing for Everton is a big part of that. When you pull that shirt on, you don’t want to give anything other than 100 per cent.”
Hibbert, who will be sharing the money from tonight’s game between charities Claire House and the Rainbow Trust, has witnessed the comings and goings, ups and downs and ins and outs of Everton over the 11 years he has played in royal blue.
He picks Thomas Gravesen and Duncan Ferguson as two of the outstanding people he has been privileged to call team-mates but someone else, someone far more divisive, is who he rates the highest.
Wayne Rooney was lined up for tonight’s game but with Manchester United facing Barcelona in a friendly, the former Blue must miss out.
It is fair to say his absence will not be felt with some supporters.
“That would have been good for Wayne and it was great that he asked me if he could play,” said Hibbert.
“It has just worked out that Manchester United have a game. He was quite upset when he realised. I speak to him every now and again, not as much as we used to obviously. It’s just great to see what he is doing and he hasn’t changed one bit.
“It says everything about Wayne that he was willing to do that. He probably would have got a bad reception but he is not fazed about that. He loves Everton. Deep down he is still an Evertonian. I know for a fact that he still goes to games. He will do anything for Everton. It was a great honour for me that he wanted to play in the game. I was surprised when he asked whether he could play and if I would like him to. I jumped at the chance but obviously he has other commitments.”
“From the first moment you saw Wayne, you knew he was unbelievable. If you ask me who is the best I have played with, it really is hard to say. Fergie is up there as well. Tommy had amazing ability close to his feet, Wayne was quicker than him. Wayne was special from early on. Sometimes he would do things and you would think to yourself “What are you doing?” – the next time he would try it and he would pull off a ‘worldly’. That is how he is.”
Is it possible Rooney could finish his career at Everton?
“I think it is possible,” said Hibbert. “If Wayne says it, then I think the club would be stupid not to welcome him back. I think there would be a few moans but for us to get a player like Wayne Rooney, who is still a massive Evertonian, like all his family.”
As one of the original founder members of the Football League, Everton are a club steeped in history and tradition and have played more seasons in the top flight of English football than any other club. Their association with the greatest cup competition in the world has thus conjured some wonderful moments, and this offering from Sport Media celebrates a century of memories since their first FA Cup success in 1906. Celebrate a century of memories with 'Everton's FA Cup 100'. Read