16 years. 328 career appearances. ONE goal. It may not have been in an official game but stalwart Tony Hibbert finally found the net for hometown club Everton in his very own testimonial match - and Goodison Park erupted.
On August 9, 2012, the reliable full-back was recognised for more than a decade in Everton's first-team with a match against Greek side AEK Athens; a side he came up against in 2009, when he broke the club's all-time appearance record in Europe.
Hibbert lined up alongside the likes of Marouane Fellaini, Leighton Baines, Leon Osman and new signing Steven Naismith, who went on to score a hat-trick that day, but it was a wonderful moment in the 53rd minute that would go down in history.
Around 17,000 excited fans watched on as Hibbert decided to step over a free-kick from 20-yards and understandably, plenty of those watching on from the stands had their doubts. But what happened next led to a full-blown pitch invasion and chants of "Tony Hibbert will score when he wants!"
What a moment.
Tony Hibbert has come out of retirement to play in the tenth tier of French football. Any excuse to watch his only goal for Everton in his testimonial match. The scenes pic.twitter.com/VIL6md51r2- Jack Kenmare (@jackkenmare_) November 22, 2021
After the game, the experienced full-back described the incredible scene as "a fairytale" moment.
"The lads were saying to me in the changing room that it was like a fairytale." he said. "I'd said to Leighton Baines earlier on that I was on free-kicks. All the fans were asking me was if I was going to score, I hit it well and it went in."
It went in alright. Then-Everton manager David Moyes even suggested he had been putting the wrong player on free-kicks this entire time.
"It wasn't a goal that was made up. It wasn't as if somebody tripped in the box and got a penalty kick." Moyes said after the full-time whistle.
"It was a genuine goal. I've been putting the wrong guy on the free-kicks for too long.
"He's been reliable, he's very rarely injured and he's a competitor. Just like Liverpool have Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, I'd put Tony Hibbert in the same situation for us here at Everton."
It was announced on Monday morning that the Everton legend has officially come out of retirement to sign for French side ES Louzy, who play in the tenth-tier.
That's right folks - Tony Hibbert, 40, has returned to football. One of the best stories of the year, by far.
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