Everton defender Leighton Baines will make his first competitive start for England away to Moldova tomorrow night, according to The Guardian.
It is perhaps good for the 27-year-old Baines that he is a down to earth character, as his first competitive start for the Three Lions arrives two-and-a-half-years after he made his full international debut in a 3-1 victory over Egypt.
Baines has been mightily impressive for Everton over the past couple of seasons, enticing interest from Manchester United. However, Baines has to accept that when it comes to international acclaim, he is clearly number two to arguably the greatest left-back to have ever worn an England shirt, Ashley Cole.
If Cole would have been fit over the international break, then he would have been the first full-back to have won 100 caps for his country. Cole, who is currently on 98 caps, will be hoping that his injury problems heal in time to win the historic 100th cap for games against San Marino and Poland next month.
As for Baines, he accepts that because of the quality of Cole, he can’t become too disheartened with himself, “I can’t get too frustrated when the guy in front of me is such a good player. I have so much respect for him, so you just bide your time. If I had been doing it since I was 20 and eight years down the line I’d got only eight caps, then maybe the frustration would build a bit more. But I came into it later, I’m still keen to get involved and get games. Along the way you pick up caps and that keeps you going.”
Baines refuted a journalist’s leading question when asked whether the Moldova game was an opportunity for him to stamp his authority on the left-back position for England. The Everton man philosophically conceded that the Moldova game probably won’t make a difference;
“It’s difficult because of what Ash brings to the table. For me it’s just going to be one or two games really. It’s difficult but my mentality has always been to do as I well as I can for Everton first. I’ve done enough now to be second choice left-back for England for a while but not been able to push on that next level. Ash is just so good and there are other things that play a part, like not playing at the top level – in terms of the Champions League.”
This answer evoked a successive question about Baines’ future at Everton. Baines said in response to his rumoured transfer to Manchester United: “I pretty much ignored it but it was getting to the point where people were asking me and yet I didn’t know anything. It was getting mentioned so often I was getting puzzled by it. As far as I know, there was not a great deal in it, so there was no point worrying about it.”