Toby Sibbick opens up on Blackpool's transfer offer and why he would be silly to leave Hearts
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Mick McCarthy caused quite a stir with a low bid for the 23-year-old defender, who is contracted at Tynecastle Park until summer 2025 and developing into a first-team regular. The Blackpool manager then further irked Hearts by stating the Edinburgh club were not being honest about the approach. That prompted a statement from the Tynecastle hierarchy declaring firmly that Sibbick isn’t for sale.
Chances of the player agreeing to swap a club pursuing European competition for one embroiled in an English Championship relegation battle were virtually non-existent in any case. After discussions with the Hearts sporting director Joe Savage and manager Robbie Neilson, Sibbick was reassured that his future is in maroon. It seemed a no-brainer to stay put.
“Yeah, I think so,” said Sibbick. “The Championship is a very good standard having had a taste of it but we are in a good place now. It would have been silly for me to exercise another option because I want to stay in the team and keep progressing as a player. I do have more development in me and there is no better place to do that than here.
“I saw it when I got home. One of my friends messaged me saying: 'This has happened.' Then I saw the news come out. I was at home chilling. I came in for training the next day, spoke to Joe and the manager and they said they wanted me to stay. I said: 'Listen, I'm happy to stay and I enjoy being here.' It would have been silly for me to leave, especially given where we are at this moment.
“I don't really focus on the transfer stuff. I'm at a good club, fighting for European places and we're still in the Scottish Cup. That's something we want to win this season so it wasn't really in my mind. I saw the noise, I had conversations with the gaffer, but in my mind I just want to be here, keep playing games and keep developing.”
Blackpool’s advances and Hearts’ subsequent rebuffing provided Sibbick with all the proof needed that his employers value him highly. “It's nice, it shows your worth. It's nice to have interest elsewhere but my mind was focused here. I just wanted to stay and keep playing. To have the air cleared up was nice. The gaffer said I am an important at player for him now and it it was obviously nice to hear that. It was a good conversation to have. Now the window is shut and I’m focused on here.”
He admitted to a little fright when the aforementioned statement was published on Hearts’ website titled with his own name. “When Hearts put out that statement, I was on Twitter scrolling through. I saw my name and thought: ‘What?’ I thought something had happened without me knowing and I was wondering what was going on. They had just put it to bed.
“I spoke to my agent and said: ‘I’m in a happy place so no need to entertain any other offers.’ I’m here, I’m happy, I’m playing, so I just want to see how well we can do this season. We are in third place just now and we still have the cup to play for.”
A series of convincing displays earned cemented his place in Neilson’s defence, making it considerably easier to ignore outside interest. Sibbick explained that he would not necessarily have taken the first available exit route even if things weren’t going well. It’s not his style.
“Even if times are tough I don’t necessarily want to run away. That can look like a weak mentality and it is easy to do,” he said. “I’m in the team and playing and I just want to keep playing well, help the team to keep doing well and see how far we can go this season.”
He has enough experience of January moves to know they can be stressful. Both his loan and permanent move to Hearts from Barnsley came during winter transfer windows. This year, he enjoyed watching the deadline day scramble from the comfort of his own couch.
“Yeah, you see Chelsea chasing people and players not getting out on loan on time, so it was a bit more relaxing. I have moved a few times in January to it was nice to be on a relaxing side of things, staying at home.”
The transfer window circus now over, Sibbick and Hearts are preparing for Saturday’s league meeting with Dundee United at Tynecastle. It is a chance to recover quickly following Wednesday’s 3-0 defeat by Rangers, which ended a ten-game unbeaten run for Neilson’s side.
“It was a frustrating night, we didn't play how we wanted to,” admitted Sibbick. “It just didn't click for us but Saturday is another opportunity to get that out of our system and get three points. We let ourselves down, we didn't want to play like that. Sometimes it happens in football and it was just an off night for us. We want to get back to winning ways on Saturday and start another unbeaten run.”
A win on Big Hearts Day would be fitting as the Edinburgh club fundraise for their charity, which does sterling work within the local community. “We need to start on the front foot and be confident within ourselves,” stressed Sibbick. “We weren't really confident, we didn't really want to play [with the ball] on Wednesday. We had players on the pitch to really take the game to them and it wasn't meant to be. This is another opportunity to win.”