An Everton Legend? - One of our blues, Millsy gives his opinion.
What defines a legend in club football?
Trophies? Personal awards? A combination of the two? A combination of the two over a length of time?
In the most part I’d agree. As an Evertonian who regularly argues on a weekly podcast with reds, I’m used to arguing the case for why Duncan Ferguson is an Everton legend. ‘How can he be a legend when he’s won f’ all’ is sometimes the reply, so far gone is the 1995 FA Cup triumph. Not true, comes the reply ‘won the FA Cup’ in a way to somehow justify his status.
What I’d always argue, even if he hadn’t won the FA Cup, is that he would still be an Everton legend. He spent over 10 years playing for the club, scoring crucial goals that without would have seen in all likelihood in season’s 94-95, 96-97, 97-98 and 01-02 Everton relegated from the Premier League.
Another argument, he was one of the better, if not the best player in the team every season he was here. I could continue, he cared, he fought for the shirt, he was invested in matters away from the field with supporters and charities, he loved the club and he was one of us. Or at least he felt like it. I doubt he’d argue against that.
So how much further does that criteria stretch to someone who may never have won a trophy at a club, at my club, at Everton.
Does it stretch to Tim Cahill? To David Weir? What about to Leon Osman? Are they much different to what is described above? Maybe not. But I’d guess that all 3 names would bring a debate amongst even the most passionate of Evertonian as to whether any would be an ‘Everton legend’.
But what of Leighton Baines?
400 + games.
30 + goals.
An England international.
Someone who chose not to rock the boat when others had previously, and even at the same time during a very public courting by a team at the time the reigning Champions.
Do they alone fill the criteria for an Everton legend? Perhaps.
But I’m talking about possibly, Everton’s greatest ever left back – or at least on the mount Rushmore.
Someone who at left back was the best player on the pitch more time’s that his position should allow.
Someone who had Evertonian’s turning up at the game years on end, hoping the team sheet would contain ‘3. Baines' season after season
Someone who in 2016, saw what was wrong and publicly addressed it after a game at Old Trafford in refreshing scouse honesty. Fuelling a response from his failing manager and a subsequent away end of Evertonian’s unveiling a banner in support.
Someone who through some days of having no hope, knowing he was on the pitch in royal blue gave you that hope. ‘At least we’ve got Baines’ was something I heard repeatedly in the Park End on numerous occasions.
Someone who went out of their way to connect with the supporters. Never pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes when he said he was a ‘football fan’ growing up opposed to ‘a mad Evertonian’ but now an Evertonian we could be proud of when it counted. How many times did we see him doing work with Everton in the community, holding babies in the street and hugging wide eyed young Evertonian’s on social media?
Someone who when he said he was desperate for success at Everton, not elsewhere - we believed. Because we knew it was true.
Someone who I had their name printed on my 1 year old’s shirt last season despite the arrival of Lucas Digne, telling my wife that when my son grew up and looked back at the history of Everton Football Club, I was certain he would thank me for.
Someone who apart from being one of the greatest players I have seen in royal blue, someone who as the banner proudly told the club’s hierarchy if they were in any doubt in 2016, is …
One of us.
So when anyone asks me in the future ‘is Leighton Baines an Everton legend?’ - I won’t even debate it.
Without a doubt.
Thanks for the memories Leighton, if only there were many more like you during your Everton career, then there wouldn’t be any basis for debate.
Ian Mills – Across The Park