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Would Hibbert deal put sentiment ahead of sense?

Roberto Martinez says the veteran fullback is set to be offered a new contract - but is that the right decision?

Paul Thomas

There is no doubting Hibbert's status as a cult hero amongst Evertonians, crystallised by that glorious moment when the supporters ran onto the pitch to celebrate his testimonial goal two years ago.

However, as a footballing force he has been on a sharp decline ever since that summer night against AEK Athens in 2012.

He only made six appearances during the entire 2012/13 season, four of those starts. His only senior outing after December was as an 89th minute substitute against West Ham in May.

This season he has not fared much better, making just four appearances, two as a sub, and only one in the Premier League.

Even if Hibbert was fully fit he will have struggled to have commanded a spot in the first team thanks to the emergence of Seamus Coleman and John Stones.

However, that has not stopped Martinez hinting that the 32-year-old may be offered a one-year extension when his current deal expires this summer.

When asked about Hibbert's future, Martinez told the Liverpool Echo:

At the moment it's been a frustrating season for Tony because of his injury problems which have stopped him competing for his place. John Stones and Seamus have taken advantage of being fully fit and have played games.

That doesn't change Tony's position here though, he has the experience and understanding of the club which is massive.

The role he has is not like other players who can only help the team by playing at the weekend.

Tony's role is bigger than that - he comes in every morning and the standard he sets is important. He helps us develop and he will always have a role at Everton for me.

Tony came on against Stevenage and has been unfortunate not to play more minutes since then.

He came on against Aston Villa and showed everyone he is ready and it's a matter of just being patient now.

I can understand Martinez's reasoning when he talks about Hibbert's influence off the pitch. What the supporters don't see is the day-to-day running of the club and the manager's efforts in nurturing team spirit at the training ground.

Local players who have the club etched into the hearts are crucial to this, especially in these days of multi-national squads.

However, in Everton's financial situation, where every penny counts, should they be spending cash on a player just because he is good to have around Finch Farm?

Or, should Hibbert be offered a (cheaper) coaching contract, similar to that of Duncan Ferguson, allowing him time to complete his badges? Lets face it, you can't really imagine him anywhere else than Everton, even in a coaching capacity.

I admit I am torn on the issue as I feel Hibbert deserves the chance to decide his own future after 12 years of loyal service.

Management though is not about sentiment and a difficult decision could - and perhaps should - be made at the end of the season.