￼Toby Sibbick: Joining Hibs would be “unfair” on Hearts fans
Hearts’ new signing Toby Sibbick met the media to discuss his return to the club and how he turned down rivals Hibernian. Jamie McIntosh reports.
Out of absolutely nowhere, at 8PM last night, Hearts’ social media accounts lit up with the announcement of a new signing. Not a word had been leaked to the media, and this is how business is being conducted at the Edinburgh club since the arrival of sporting director Joe Savage.
The player who was about to be announced was the versatile holding midfielder, Toby Sibbick, who signed a three-and-a-half-year deal from Barnsley for an undisclosed fee.
Sibbick had spent time at Hearts before, albeit briefly, signed during the 2020 January window, by then-manager Daniel Stendel.
The 22-year-old only featured twice for Hearts before the premature ending of the season due to covid, which eventually led to The Jambos’ demotion to the Championship
Now though, Hearts are back in the Premiership and Sibbick is back in maroon, in the hope of boosting his side’s chances of finishing third and securing European football next season.
Sibbick admitted his frustration at the way his previous spell in Gorgie ended, and he believes the Hearts fans will now see an even better player than they did two years ago.
“I think I always had it in my mind to come back here,” he said.
“The fans took to me well. I know the history of the club, it’s a massive club in Scotland, so when I heard that the opportunity had come up, I just wanted to get it done and to come back.
“It was frustrating [last time],” he added. “Especially considering the position we were in at the time. We were bottom of the league [when the season was halted].
“It was tough as a player with us not knowing what was going on. I was speaking to Stendel throughout lockdown, asking him what was going to happen.
“If you can play a Scottish Cup final from the season before, why can’t you continue the league? To me, it just made no sense. I feel they [SPFL] could have gone about it in a better way.
“In England they paused, then finished the season, then a little off-season, then back in. I feel that could have happened, but Hearts are back where they belong now. That’s the main thing.
“I think I’ve grown as a player and as a person. When I came here before, I think I was a bit rawer, but now I think I’ve learned my trade in the game. I’m still young, but I do think I’ve got a lot of experience at my age, so I just can’t wait to get going now.
The holding midfielder, who can also play in the centre or right side of defence, was heavily linked with rivals Hibernian earlier in the January window, but Sibbick explained that talks with Hearts had been ongoing for a while, and that there was no chance he was ever going to pull on a Hibs shirt.
“The talks between us and Hearts have always been there,” said Sibbick.
“There have been talks before, but at the beginning of January the club first spoke with my agent and I, to see if something could get done. It wasn’t until just before the Celtic game that everything was almost done, then on Thursday, I got the call to say I was coming back up here, and I just couldn’t wait to get it done.
“I think the two clubs [Hibs and Barnsley] were speaking about it and when my agent proposed it to me I said: ‘No, I don’t want to do it’.
“It wouldn’t have been fair on the fans. They’ve seen me here, they took to me so well. I’d been linked with Hibs before, but I said no, because that was just after I’d been with Hearts. To go there wouldn’t have been right on the club or the fans.
“In the back of my mind, I always wanted to come back to Hearts, and I think now is the perfect time to do that.
“The Hearts fans kept messaging me when I wasn’t playing at Barnsley. They kept looking out for me and telling me to come back and now obviously I’ve listened to some of them.
“I just don’t think it would’ve been right [to sign for Hibs] considering the history between the two clubs. The type of person I am, I couldn’t do that to a club like Hearts.
“I’ve played for a fan-owned club before, so I know what it means for the fans especially. They give the club everything, so us as players, should give it back to them.”
With injuries to Michael Smith and Craig Halkett, and Taylor Moore being 50/50, Sibbick may be thrown in at the deep end against FOURTH placed Motherwell.
It’s a massive match for the Jambos ahead of Tuesday’s much anticipated Edinburgh Derby at Easter Road. Sibbick admitted that a club the size of Hearts should be fighting at the top end of the table, rather than the bottom, and added he’s ready to play immediately if called upon.
“I do feel Hearts should always be up there fighting for Europe. When I came and they were bottom of the league, it’s always easy to blame other people in the dressing room.
“When you’re winning, everybody comes together. When I walk in now I just see everyone happy and smiling. They are all together and they just want the best for themselves and the club. It’s a really good atmosphere,” he added.
“I haven’t played for almost three months now. Match fitness is always different to normal fitness. It might take me one or two games to get back to full fitness, but I feel fresh and ready.”