Tony Hibbert has already played as many matches this season as he did last term – and he is delighted to be back in the thick of the action.
A succession of injuries and Seamus Coleman’s consistent form had resulted in the right-back playing a peripheral part over the past few seasons.
But Hibbert’s recent appearances against Swansea City, Liverpool, FC Krasnodar and Manchester United means he has now strung four consecutive appearances together for the first time since April and May 2012.
“It’s been good to get back out there playing,” he declared to evertontv. “It’s been a long time because I’ve had quite a few injuries and I’ve been trying to get back into the squad.
“The manager has shown some faith in me, given me a chance when the numbers were down and I’m happy with that.
“The manager stuck with me since Swansea really – I don’t think I was supposed to play as many games as I have, but there were injuries so he stuck with me.”
Hibbert signed a two-year contract extension at Everton in the summer, with Roberto Martinez insisting only last week that it was important to have ‘reliable characters’ such as the veteran defender in his squad.
The Everton manager’s footballing ideology is for full-backs to play higher up the pitch, instructions which Coleman and Leighton Baines benefitted from significantly last season.
Hibbert, a Goodison favourite for his tough tackling and no-nonsense approach, admits he has had to become more accustomed to this way of playing – but says he has no problems adapting his game, even at the age of 33.
This was highlighted at Old Trafford last Sunday when he found himself in an advanced position and won the first-half penalty.
He added: “I think the system he plays means he’s [Martinez] happy for us to go forward and get involved more but we’ve also still got to keep a defensive mind in that when we do attack. We’ve got to keep our shape and be covering ourselves defensively.
“It’s difficult [getting up and down] – you’ve got to be fit to do it but you can pick and choose your times to get forward. But the system also means that if we do get caught out going forward, there may be one or two midfielders that can help out behind you.
“That’s the modern age now and the full-backs have to get forward as much as possible.”