The Everton vs Tottenham matchup at Goodison Park will be a special one for Leighton Baines as it will mark his 300th start in the English Premier League for Everton. He began his time in the Premier League as a member of Wigan Athletic when he helped them earn promotion for the 2005-2006 season, but the bulk of his legacy has been built with Everton.
The fullback has already featured in 381 games for Everton, and 151 for the Latics. In that time, he has scored 40 goals with 65 assists. With just 30 international caps though, Baines has never received the full appreciation he deserves from the England national team but his value to Everton has been unquestioned and he certainly will go down as one of the absolute legends of the club.
His teammate, Morgan Schneiderlin agrees:
“Leighton’s very much an important player for Everton. I think he’s an Everton legend he’s played so many years here. He’s always fit, always doing well, you always see in training that he is working hard and he always has good spirit.
“I remember watching Everton when him and Steven Pienaar were in the team. They made a hell of a partnership and it was beautiful to watch them. Even now, with other players in front of him, I think it’s a joy for everyone to have a left-back like him, he’s so clever and determined.”
A joy indeed. The silver lining of the club’s failure to acquire a backup for Baines this summer is that we will be able to have his leadership and ability on the pitch as often as possible, with the player named deputy captain behind Phil Jagielka in the pecking order.
His manager showed appreciation as well, with Ronald Koeman praising the form of his left back:
“I am really happy with Leighton’s performances. He has shown really good fitness from the start of the season and he is playing well. He is quiet, but he is doing his role, fulfilling his function in the team as our attacking left full-back.
“I have been really pleased with the level he has been showing in the opening weeks of the season.”
Koeman will well remember the run of poor form Everton experienced last year when Baines was hurt, and that no doubt contributes to his appreciation of the player. The Dutchman is a manager that does not hesitate to criticize his players when he feels it is appropriate, making his praise of Baines all the more meaningful.
When discussing the milestone, Baines reminisced about his journey to arrive at Everton:
“I was a kid on the street playing football, so in that respect, every day is a success...So, when you look at it that way, I was one of those kids… and I ended up here...If you take a moment to look at it like that, it is pretty special.”
Awareness for where he came from has no doubt contributed to the humility and professionalism he brings to the pitch, and we see that even more when he says:
“Everton is a big club, so there was always the possibility they would try to replace me. That has always pushed me on. It was always in my mind, especially early on here.”
At this point, however, it’s not about worrying about his place, it’s simply about giving his all for Everton while he’s still here. This man deserves every ounce of appreciation we can give him for however long he is willing to pull on the shirt, and we should be thrilled that we have had the experience of seeing him cutting down the left flank each and every week for so long.
Thanks Bainesy. We couldn’t ask for much more, especially in this era of football mercenaries that come and go all the time.