8 August 2012 10:20
Tony Hibbert has revealed that Wayne Rooney asked to feature for Everton in the defender’s testimonial.
But Rooney had to pull out as the game clashed with Manchester United’s pre-season friendly against Barcelona.
The boyhood fan left the Merseyside club in discordant fashion in 2004 and has suffered scorn from Toffees fans ever since, but was keen to show his appreciation to the club’s longest-serving player.
And Hibbert was touched by the willingness shown by Rooney in light of an expected backlash from some sections of fans.
“It was great that he asked me but it just worked out that Manchester United also have a game and he was quite upset when he realised,” Hibbert is quoted as saying by The Guardian.
“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.”
Despite the opportunity to wear the Everton shirt for the first time since his 27-million-pound exit, Hibbert has tipped Rooney to one day represent the club after his playing days with United are over.
Hibbert added: “I think it is possible. If Wayne wants 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, would be fantastic.”
AEK Athens come to Goodison Park to honour Hibbert’s 12-year career in the Everton first team – in which time he has amassed 309 appearances.
However, the 31-year-old has never scored for the Premier League side in that time, a club record, and he is hesitant to step up if the opportunity arises on Wednesday night.
“Everyone has been asking me that. The manager hasn’t said anything, nobody has,” he added.
“I would rather us win 1-0 than us get beaten 2-1 and I score the goal. I just want to win. I don’t know why everyone is saying I should take a penalty either. It’s an easy way of scoring, isn’t it? If I’m going to do it, I want it to be a 30-yarder.”