Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard has described team-mate Leighton Baines as the “key cog” in David Moyes’ tactical setup.
The England international has enjoyed a stand-out season for the Merseyside club and leads the Premier League chance creation charts having carved out 105 opportunities from left-back.
When asked if Baines was unfortunate to miss out on a PFA Player of the Year award nomination as a result, Howard told the club’s official website: “I think that’s right.
“But with Bainesy at left-back position, it’s not a glamour position and I think it’s hard sometimes to see just how effective he is.
“He’s our key cog. We’ve got [Marouane] Fellaini and [Steven] Pienaar and those guys, and obviously Kevin Mirallas can produce a bit of magic.
“But without Bainesy this team doesn’t go. But it’s just hard sometimes for people on the outside to see that.
“[Robin] van Persie has once again had a fantastic season after being brilliant last year, and certainly Gareth Bale has proven his worth again and again this season. For me, they’re the two front runners.
“I think Gareth Bale might just nick it, but we’ll see.
“Obviously Van Persie turns on the style as well and has won the title [with United], so it will be interesting and close. Very close.”
The American also expressed delight at having marked his 300th appearance and 100th clean sheet for Everton during the 0-0 draw with Arsenal earlier this month.
“I didn’t know until someone told me this past week,” he said. “I was delighted with the 300 games and then when they told me about the clean sheets I was over the moon.
“One in three is not a bad ratio and I believe in longevity and consistency and I believe that’s what those numbers show.
“Hopefully I’ve got at least another 100 games in me and I can keep pushing that mark up.”