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Toby Sibbick in line for his second Hearts debut after signing from Barnsley

Barnsley v Sheffield United – Sky Bet Championship – Oakwell
(Image credit: Nigel French)

Toby Sibbick is in line to make his second debut for Hearts against Motherwell on Saturday as a replacement for the injured Craig Halkett.

The versatile 22-year-old – who had a short, illness-disrupted loan stint at Tynecastle two years ago – returned to the Edinburgh club on Thursday on a three-and-a-half-year contract after leaving Barnsley.

Ordinarily he may have had to wait for his opportunity as Hearts’ back three have been in superb form this term, but manager Robbie Neilson confirmed that centre-back Halkett is facing several weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring injury sustained in Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat by Celtic.

Sibbick, who played just two matches for Hearts in his first spell before being struck down by glandular fever and then seeing the season prematurely curtailed by Covid, is eager to get back out and play at Tynecastle for only the second time after making his debut first time round in a thrilling 2-1 victory over Rangers in January 2020.

He said: “I watched the game against Celtic on Wednesday from my house in Leeds. Tynecastle’s always rocking so I can’t wait to get back out there in front of the fans. It’s good to be back. The last few months have been tough for me.

“I was playing regularly at the start of the season but since the manager changed (in November), it’s almost like I was shown out the door at Barnsley. But I knew that one day I’d like to come back to Hearts and show the people who I really am. I feel like over the last couple of years I’ve grown as a person and as a player.

“When I first came I was only 20 and I was a bit raw but I feel I have matured since then. I’ve been playing mostly on the right side of a back three but I’m a versatile player. I can play in whatever position needs filling. The gaffer says he sees me filling in at centre-half, either on the right side or in the middle.”

Despite his lack of action in his first spell, Sibbick developed a connection with Hearts. Although the subject of interets from city rivals Hibernian in the current transfer window and also last January, the Englishman insists there was never any chance of him heading to Easter Road.

He said: “Ever since I left I’ve always kept an eye out for Hearts. I watched their games on television and kept an eye out for their results.

“I’ve been linked with Hibs twice now but I don’t think I could do it to such a great club because the fans took to me so well even though I only played a couple of games.

“Whenever I get linked with Hibs, my direct messages on social media are full of Hearts fans telling me not to go there and come home (to Tynecastle). The two clubs were talking but if it ever came to anything, I would have said ‘no’.

“I came home and now I’m delighted. I was linked with Hibs twice but I always felt like I would come back to Hearts.”

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