Club Focus – Everton – More takeover talk as Hibbert marks a decade as a Toffee

With the international break now over and Premier League football returning, the celebration of unlikely cult hero Tony Hibbert’s 10th anniversary as an Everton player and the return of a familiar theme, rumours of a takeover involving Liverpool-born United States-based businessman Bernard Mullin, are dominating discussion.

There is a variation to the latter topic this time, with Mullin not interested in buying the club himself, but rather reportedly offering to find someone who is. The Daily Telegraph quoted Mullin as valuing Everton’s shares between £75m and £100m, with a further £250m needed to renovate Goodison Park – a low estimate, perhaps, given it does not include the almost inevitable delays and escalations – and that quarter of a billion pounds would only deliver 50,000 seats, 10,000 more than Goodison currently holds, perhaps underscoring the struggle Everton have had to locate not only a new owner but a new stadium as well. In truth, there was very little substance to the Telegraph’s piece – almost certainly not enough to excite Everton fans who have grown jaded over the constant speculation regarding the future of the club – and the news that Mullin has taken on something of a salesman’s role is unlikely to impress the cynics either, particularly given just a few years ago it was Keith Harris, the noted football administrator, with the same task and no tangible progress.

Impressing the cynics is something Tony Hibbert has at times struggled to do in his decade in the Everton first team. The youth team product spent time as the discontented fan’s target of the month at one point, with sighs of indifference rather than cheers of celebration greeting his name when the teams were announced pre-match, but, having come through that spell in one piece, Hibbert has become the unlikeliest of cult heroes. As is often the case with such esoteric favourites, explaining exactly why Hibbert has become so popular with a large section of the Everton support is difficult. There are the usual reasons – no-nonsense determination, full-blooded commitment and a sense of identity – but Hibbert’s popularity is rooted not in what he does do for the team, but instead something he has never done in an Everton shirt – score a goal. The motto ‘Hibbert scores: We riot’ is often heard around Goodison, and seen on Everton message boards, a mark of how unlikely a Hibbert goal would be. Indeed, you could probably count on the fingers of two hands the amount of shots the player has had since his debut aged 21.

Put aside the comedy surrounding Hibbert’s lack of goals, and you are left with the archetypal cult hero – a locally-born, youth team graduate – FA Youth Cup winner in 1998 – and now long-serving and reliable figure, and a record-breaker, as the holder of Everton’s European appearance record. Any Hibbert appearance would not be complete without a thundering – and expertly-timed – challenge to rob an opposing winger, and it is for that sort of unassuming perseverance that Hibbert deserves the respect of Evertonians and the wider football world.

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