Our Road to Wembley
Our Road to Wembley feature is back and Graeme Bailey catches up with Everton ace Tony Hibbert.
By Graeme Bailey - Tweet me: @skygraemebailey
Last Updated: 16/02/12 4:43pm
Our Road to Wembley feature returns for the fourth round and we are following yet another new side, now we are on the trail of Everton.
After linking up with Blyth, Gateshead and Tamworth so far this season, we bid the parish of non-league football farewell and find ourselves in Premier company.
And there are few better clubs with regards to FA Cup tradition than Everton.
The Toffees are five-time winners and 13-time finalists of the world's oldest cup competition.
With Everton's proud tradition in mind, we caught up with one of their stars who doesn't need telling about how much the cup means to the club - Tony Hibbert.
Hibbert is one of a rare breed of Premier League footballers, having played for the same club - his boyhood heroes - for his entire career.
A stalwart of nearly 300 games, Hibbert's FA Cup memories as a child all belong to Everton.
The club were almost a permanent fixture at Wembley in the 1980s reaching the final four times, winning once in '84.
But Hibbert's first real memory comes from 1991 when Everton overcame rivals Liverpool in a replay after a thrilling 4-4 draw.
"I have been to quite a few finals as a fan, plus the 4-4 in 1991, but I have been to a few as it was a massive day out as a local lad. There was always a few Everton and Liverpool so it is always good, it was always mixed at old Wembley and memories were brilliant, but for me the 1991 and 1995 when we won stick out for me."
But Hibbert has his own experiences of the FA Cup final, back in 2009 when Everton lost 2-1 to Chelsea and he insists he looks back with fond memories despite the loss.
"It is good to look back on," he insisted.
"The lads, the majority like me, Ossie and the young lads went, there are a few of the lads who have not tasted it but it was great for the whole squad and to know what it is all about, to play that semi-final and final, the experience was brilliant from it.
"It would be unbelievable to repeat that, especially as a local lad."
Hibbert is also firm in the belief that the 'Magic' of the cup remains firmly intact - although he feels the foreign influence on the English game and the dominance of the Premier League has taken its toll.
When asked if the magic was present, he opined: "Deep down it is.
"It is hard because there are that many foreigners in the Premier League, it is hard for them to get a grasp of how big it is and the history, but deep down it has a place in your heart and it always will.
"The Premier League is the main event, and that is the case in most clubs, it is the number one, but obviously the history of the FA Cup is phenomenal making it special."
He admits that for some clubs it could be treated as a distraction, but not for Everton.
"The FA Cup depends on where you are in the league, those who are trying to get established you know it could be hard but for us it is too big not too take serious, and getting the crowd behind us it is something we need," he said.
"Whatever round we are in, we are taking this serious now, we have to, it is a chance of that silverware and we have to keep on going, carrying on and the more you play and get through, the more experience it is too and we want this to carry on and we know it is a big chance."
Having overcome non-league Tamworth and avoided that particular banana skin, Fulham are next in line, and Hibbert says that means a very normal week ahead this Friday's match.
"The build-up is the same as a Premier League game as we are playing a Premier League team anyway, so it doesn't really change but the FA Cup is special," he said admitting that Everton really need to look to getting some silverware back at Goodison.
"We have played them a few times, and we will treat it like a Premier League game, it is just getting to know them again, but this is a cup game and this is Everton's time for silverware.
"We have got to look at this, a club of this size we need silverware, we have gone on a run of a good few years of not having that - we got to the final against Chelsea and it has got to the point where to be honest the club needs that now."
Evertonian Hibbert clearly loves it at his hometown club and he would 'love' to continue with them for his whole career.
"I would love to carry on with one club, I have only been with Everton and it is a big part of me and I would not want to change that," he revealed.
"It is only when I look back that I realise that I have been here that long and it is phenomenal, it is a massive club and a great one to be at and with my family being Evertonians anyway it is just a huge part of my life."