'An Everton Great, And One Of Us' - Chairman's Tribute To Retiring Leighton Baines

We knew the day would come, and it’s come sooner than we would have liked - we tried to make it different I promise Evertonians - but that’s Leighton, his own man... and, of course, we all respect his decision.

There is simply no praise high enough for ‘Bainesy’ - as a player and as a man.

He is right up there with the great Ray Wilson as one of the best left-backs we have ever seen. And often during his time with us, one of the best left-backs in the world.

Unrivalled footballing intelligence, coupled with unbelievable consistency... and all of the time a Leighton brain that nagged at him that he could do better!

I have so many memories of Leighton the man, alongside Leighton the player... from the very first day when the outstanding Brenda Spencer at Wigan told me... ”Bill, I’ve spoken to Dave [Whelan, then Wigan Athletic chairman], and we aren’t going to be difficult. Everton and Leighton were made for each other...”

She and Dave were right.

Leighton’s been as tremendous off the pitch as he has been on it. An impeccable leader and colleague to teammates, a fans’ favourite and the staunchest of supporters of our work in the Community.

His stats - more than 400 games, more than 30 goals... many of them worldies - (will any of us who were there in the Goodison rain ever forget his final one in the Carabao Cup in December?) and about a million assists - only tell part of the story.

But Evertonians know... and to Leighton Baines that’s what mattered.

An Everton great.

And one of us.