Why Everton Veterans Baines, Jagielka Remain Vital to Toffees' Cause 10 Years Later
They've played under three Everton managers, watched plenty of players come and go, reveled in the Toffees finally landing that elusive billionaire investor and become excited at the direction the Blues are moving in.
In Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka, Everton have two stalwarts upon whom the bricks of a bright new dawn can be built.
The pair are more than just mere foundations for a long overdue club renaissance, however. They have been - and continue to be - vital to everything good about the Everton of old, and the one that will emerge under the guidance of manager Ronald Koeman and majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri.
It's a decade since the former Wigan Athletic full-back and ex-Sheffield United centre-back walked through the door at Goodison Park, and it is a testament to their quality, commitment to the cause and the blue blood that flows through their veins that they have remained part of the first-team set up well into their 30s.
So much has changed on Merseyside where the Toffees are concerned - particularly since Moshiri's arrival in Feburary 2016 - and yet, throughout all the upheavel, slight chaos and keenly anticipated times, the defensive duo have endured.
That Baines became the club's new all-time record appearance holder - for a full-back anyway - with his 376th senior appearance in last Thursday's 1-0 victory over MFK Ruzomberok shows just how important he is to Everton.
The left-back was limited to first-team opportunities during his first few months under former boss David Moyes, with his timid demeanour and lack of height counting against him, but the 32-year-old hasn't looked back since he was handed a chance to impress in the wake of Joleon Lescott's injury many moons ago.
Since then it has been an extremely rare occurrence when Baines hasn't performed to his consistently high standards for Everton. His wand of a left foot, dead ball speciality, trademark runs down the wing and never-say-die attitude have made him a firm fan favourite.
No other left-back signing has come close to besting Baines in the battle for the number one left-back slot since his arrival, and he provides a glowing example of how a player can fight back to return to a club that originally let him go as a youngster.
Announce Baines and Jagielka testimonial with Arteta, Cahill, Pienaar and Yakubu— TheToffeeBlues (@EvertonNewsFeed) August 7, 2017
One of the first names on any Blues boss' team sheet, Baines has become synonymous with everything good about Everton. A star on and off the pitch, an individual who commands respect with his always honest views and a player who shuns the limelight, Baines is as down to Earth as they come.
His Toffee and England team-mate Jagielka, too, is a man whose feet have been firmly on the ground throughout the past decade.
'Jags' may struggle for regular game time in the coming campaign due to the £24m arrival of Michael Keane, but his professionalism, leadership and expertise with be as crucial to Koeman's squad off the field as well as on it.
The 34-year-old recently penned a new contract with Everton to keep him in L4 until June 2019, and that just reward is further proof of how valued he is in the corridors of Goodison and USM Finch Farm.
Robust in the tackle, positionally sound and as vocal as they come, Everton's stars know that their club captain is a man to rally behind and his character is typified by the fact that he welcomed Keane - the man who will ultimately steal his first-team berth in 2017/18 - with open arms upon his capture from Burnley in the summer.
With plenty more to look forward to for all associated with the royal blue shirt - a stunning stadium on Liverpool's world famous docks and further investment in the senior squad to name but two - it would be easy to overlook the contribution of two of Everton's longest servants.
It may be 10 years since the pair arrived on Merseyside within 31 days of each other under Moyes, but Everton supporters would not want two finer examples for present and future stars to look to and idolise in the coming seasons.
Baines and Jagielka: Two true Blues cut from the same cloth, and a duo that Everton are proud to call their own.