If you were to ask Evertonians for their opinion of Leighton Baines, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who would say a bad word about him.
The Everton left back has been a devote servant of the club for almost nine years, and has received widespread praise for his performances during that time.
The England international has also always come across as an honest, intelligent, salt-of-the-Earth individual when giving an interview.
Earlier this week, Baines was questioned over whether Everton’s first team stars were finding it tough to motivate themselves in the Premier League after progressing to the FA Cup semi-finals a few weeks ago.
“It is yeah, but the motivation should be in trying to get your name there for it, shouldn’t it?” Baines replied.
“It’s like (pause of several seconds), I just think, you know, I don’t know, I just don’t feel like the chemistry is quite there on the pitch within the team at the moment and it hasn’t been for a while.
“Obviously results have an impact on that because chemistry and confidence can go hand in hand in a way. You start winning games. I mean look at the teams who are having success this year. You would say they’ve got chemistry, you know?
“If I had to say one thing it would be, I don’t know if it’s there at the moment for whatever reason.”
A typically candid, forthright answer from Baines then.
Which makes manager Roberto Martinez’s comments on the 30-year-old defender today all the more unnecessary and, perhaps, insulting..
The Catalan was quizzed over this apparent lack of on-the-field chemsitry, and replied in less than glowing terms.
“I think there are two aspects of that,” he said.
“First, it’s very disappointing when you see a misinterpretation of certain words that a player says and really this has been taken out of context in the way that it’s come out.
“And the other aspect is that someone of the experience of Leighton Baines knows he has to take responsibility for those words – I have had a chat with him – those words have given the opportunity to be maybe attracting a meaning that is not right, not correct and obviously for that he has apologised and taken responsibility for that for leaving those words open.
“Those quotes have been taken out of context and that’s disappointing on one side.
“But on the other side, obviously Leighton takes responsibility for putting himself in a position which has given the wrong words and allowed the wrong interpretation and for that, as I said, he has apologised and is ready to move forward.”
If Baines’ words were indeed misrepresented – they weren’t – then why has he been made to apologise?
And if Martinez was justifiably concerned with one of his senior players being frank and upfront, when he did not believe Baines should have been, then why not keep all of this in-house instead of publically deriding him?
It is a very dangerous game to try and leverage yourself against any individual who has given a truthful, honest answer to a genuine question.
It is even more perilous to do so against a senior member of your first team squad, and a player for whom Evertonians across the globe have a lot of time and affection for.
Of course, this is nothing new, providing you believe the rumours of discontent from both past and present Everton players who have allegedly had run-ins with Martinez.
Samuel Eto’o, Sylvain Distin and Kevin Mirallas have all supposedly made it known that they have not agreed with the former Wigan Athletic manager’s tactics, opinions or management style – and all have paid the price to varying degrees.
But none of the above have been subjected to public embarrassment like Baines has, thanks to today’s comments.
Martinez was already walking a thin tightrope with Everton fans after another discouraging campaign; the upcoming FA Cup semi-final his only potential saving grace.
Now he has taken on a beloved servant and important first team member of his squad.
There is only one winner where Toffees supporters are concerned – and it certainly isn’t Martinez.