Evergreen Leighton Baines still cementing his Everton legacy
Background Image Via: Biloblue. CC BY-SA 4.0.
Formed in 1878 as a founding member of the Football League, Everton Football Club has had its fair share of success. The Toffees have called Goodison Park home for well over a decade, with the famous stadium upon Merseyside playing host to some absolute footballing legends.
In recent years, while it's true that Everton may have fallen below expectations where winning trophies is concerned, The Blues have still had supremely-talented players on their books. From the great Neville Southall to the brilliant Graeme Sharp. More recently Duncan Ferguson was an Everton icon as a player, now, it seems fitting that he's back in the dugout and giving a new lease of life to another Toffees prodigal son; Leighton Baines.
Now 35, Baines has been amongst the best full-backs of my lifetime. For young Everton fans, he's as symbolic as they come. Hailing from Kirkby in Liverpool, Baines would begin his career in The Blues' academy. Eventually, the budding defender would move to Wigan Athletic in search for more playing time. He'd spend five years in the Greater Manchester town before Everton would bring Bainsey back home.
For eleven-straight seasons, Baines would make that left-back slot his own. Countless individual honours and international caps would follow for the Englishman who'd often be considered amongst the best in his position. Still, father time would remain undefeated; while the arrival of Lucas Digne didn't help. Baines would take a backwards step into the shadows. He'd become the forgotten man upon Merseyside - that was until this week...
A Digne injury during a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford would leave the door ajar for one final Baines hurrah. My gosh, would he take that chance. The veteran would go on to play a key part in holding Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men and picking up a well-earned point for his side. Baines would back that up with his first start in ten months against Leicester City. He'd send us all a reminder of his god-given ability to ping a football into the back of the net from 30+ yards. Everton fans, rejoice.
The sad reality of football is that players are forgotten about oh so easily. Have a few bad games, a replacement is signed and then you sort of drift into obscurity no matter how well you've performed, sometimes for a decade-plus. Then there's the special few who simply don't go down without a fight. Sure, Baines' best years are obviously behind him - but watching a master of his craft fight back and play with such quality after so long out is a credit to his character. It's why he's so highly-respected across Merseyside. It's why he'll go down as an Everton and Premier League legend.
Don't forget that there were many times in which Baines could have moved away from Everton. Arsenal and Manchester United both came knocking on more than one occasion - but for the left-back to stay put in his beloved hometown. It would have been oh so easy for Baines to chase the money and trophies. Sometimes there are more important things in life. For that, he deserves immense praise.
I guess what I'm trying to say it's just nice to see one of football's good-guys come out on top and remind us all just how brilliant he was. To you, Leighton Baines, I tip my cap...