Baines and Jagielka Feted On 10-Year Celebration Night

by Paul McNamara

“It won’t take long,” joked Phil Jagielka as a roomful of rapt Evertonians settled down to watch a highlights reel of the defender’s Goodison Park career.

Jagielka’s self-depreciating quip provided a sharp insight into why he is one of his Club’s most popular figures.

The ensuing footage of the centre-back scoring goals for Everton at a host of English footballing strongholds merely served to remind us what a precious asset the 35-year-old has proved since joining from Sheffield United.

This scene formed part of an evening to celebrate Jagielka and Leighton Baines’s decade of service to Everton Football Club.

The pair both arrived on Merseyside in 2007, Jagielka a £4million bargain in July of that year, with Baines following from Wigan, a snip at £6million, one month later.

“I keep telling him I have been here longer, so I have the final say in the dressing room,” Jagielka told an audience of Everton supporters, invited to an event in Goodison’s Alex Young Suite on account of the fact their first season tickets to watch the Blues coincided with Baines and Jagielka’s debut campaign with the Club.

Inevitably, montages of the pair’s finest moments in the royal blue jersey went down a storm. Two defenders with a penchant for the spectacular, their respective films featured a cluster of stunning strikes.

Those citadels Jagielka has stormed include Old Trafford, White Hart Lane, St James’s Park and, of course, Anfield. That otherworldly stoppage-time equaliser across Stanley Park three years ago, confirmed Jagielka, was his standout moment in an Everton shirt.

For Baines’s part, nothing can top the day he signed for the Club. “I could tell my family and friends I was an Everton player,” said Baines, his pride unmistakable.

The left-back, capped 30 times by England, explained how some inside knowledge passed on by former Everton coach Steve Round was behind the two free-kicks he bent beyond West Ham goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen at Upton Park in September 2013.

Baines’s best dead-ball strike though? Jagielka intervened here; the arrowing Exocet Baines rifled into the back of Newcastle’s net from 35 yards, nine months before his twin strikes in East London, knocked the rest into a cocked hat, by his friend's judgement, anyway.

Baines was reminded by one supporter he is yet to score from a set piece on his home ground. This year’s Merseyside derby might be the time to break that particular duck agreed the player.

The duo went head to head in a quiz, which revealed quite how well acquainted they have become during 10 years sharing a dressing room.

Jagielka won that particular duel. Fair to say – to use football parlance – he wanted it more.

The Everton captain ummed and ahed before each answer, deliberating over all manner of quirky questions about his teammate – and a few on more general football affairs, too.

An archetypal Baines reply, by contrast: “how am I meant to know?,” – when asked about Jagielka’s first car.

Back to football matters, and Baines namechecked Real Madrid’s former Manchester United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and Arjen Robben, the ex-Chelsea sprinter, as his two most difficult opponents.

Through gritted teeth, Jagielka plumped for Luis Suarez as his toughest foe – but also remembered having his eyes opened to what a physical battleground professional football constituted by former Southampton and Bolton battering ram Kevin Davies.

There is a palpable affection and respect between Jagielka and Baines. They were both sat bolt upright and animated as they recalled all the finer points of Everton's FA Cup semi-final penalty shootout victory over Manchester United in 2009. They had the order of the Blues' penalty takers, how they were scored and the thought process behind their own kicks down pat.

"We love loyalty at Everton," said Club Ambassador Graham Stuart, an on-stage guest.

Stuart’s fellow 1995 FA Cup winner, Barry Horne, eulogised the pair for their enduring quality – and said he “would have loved the opportunity to stay here for 10 years”.

But, admitted Horne, who left the Blues in 1996 following four seasons at Goodison, only the very special players can achieve such extraordinary longevity at the pinnacle of their sport – and for one enormous club, to boot.

As imperative as Baines and Jagielka’s on-pitch deeds, though, is their commitment to Everton from a broader perspective.

Stuart was keen to stress the twosome’s readiness to engage in working with Everton in the Community (EITC).

“We want to make people’s lives better through EITC and Jags and Baines are at the forefront of that,” said Stuart.

Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines: at the forefront of Everton Football Club for 10 years… and counting.

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