Everton duo Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines have paid tribute to former teammate Gareth Barry after the midfielder broke the record for the most Premier League appearances.
Barry played his 633rd match in the English top-flight after he was named as captain in West Brom’s starting line-up for their clash at Arsenal on Monday night.
No less than 154 of those were made during his four-year spell at Goodison Park after the midfielder joined the Toffees from Manchester City in 2013, and Jagielka says his close friend was as dependable a character off the pitch as he was on it.
“It’s not like he has played for any old team – he has played at the top level and won trophies,” said the Blues skipper. “Most of those appearances will be starts as well, and a lot of those will be 90 minutes – so there is a lot of mileage on the clock. That’s testament to Gareth and the way he keeps himself fit and does the right things.
“He is a great footballer but also a really good guy as well. I know he has picked up a fair few bookings in all those appearances but he is a really down-to-earth guy! I’m delighted for him to break as many records as he can.
“Gareth was a cool, calm and collected presence. He didn’t speak too much but when he did you listened. He showed people how to do things right on and off the pitch. He is so professional and is definitely a great role model.
“I knew as captain that I could rely on him all the time. It’s fantastic to see him break the record, and to do so in the best league in the world.”
Meanwhile, defender Baines insists 36-year-old Barry - who left Everton for the Baggies last month - will not only go down as one of the best players he has ever lined up alongside, but will be remembered long after he eventually hangs up his boots.
“I think everyone will appreciate the record,” he added. “He was such a good player for us, someone who the football community will respect massively, not just because he was a good player, but how he’s been able to apply himself and play that many games, under so many different managers who have come.
“Whatever club he’s been at, whether they’ve signed him or not, managers have looked at him and known he’s got to be in the team. You don’t make that number of appearances for nothing - you’ve got to be a special player and Gaz, for me, is one of my favourite players. He’s one of the best players that I’ve ever played with.”