Solid and dependable

Leighton Baines is one of the best dead-ball specialists in England and regularly poses an attacking threat, writes Andrew McDermott.

Just like his manager David Moyes, there is a feeling that Leighton Baines deserves greater reward for the work he has done at Everton but whether he can achieve that success at Goodison Park remains to be seen.

Baines is widely regarded as being up there with the best defenders in the English Premier League. A solid and dependable full-back, the former Wigan man is one of the best dead-ball specialists in the country and regularly poses an attacking threat.

Were it not for Ashley Cole, he would undoubtedly be one of the first names on the England team-sheet but for now it seems he must continue to be patient and hope he eventually gets his chance to boost his footballing CV.

But unless he leaves Goodison Park, Baines may have to settle for regular praise without the medals as Everton face another season without a trophy following their shock home defeat to his former club Wigan recently.

If that is the case, he can at least look back on the success he enjoyed during Wigan’s rise through the Football League and into the top flight of English football.

Despite being born on Merseyside and attending Liverpool’s Centre of Excellence, Baines was rejected by both the Reds and Everton and instead began his career with the Latics — with whom he made his first-team debut in 2002. The Lancashire club were crowned champions of the third tier of English football during the 2002/3 season and they took just two years to earn another promotion — this time to the EPL — after finishing as runners-up to Sunderland.

A year later, Baines featured in the League Cup final as Wigan were beaten 4-0 by Manchester United and by the summer of 2007, bigger clubs were circling.

Sunderland were the first to make a move but Baines rejected a switch to the Stadium of Light. He could not resist a return to Merseyside though and signed for Everton in a GBP5 million deal.

“Wigan is always going to be special for me,” said Baines. “Not only did they give me my chance but we had success in that period because we were in League One when I came through and to rise and end up in the Premier League is something I’ll always look back on fondly.”

He initially struggled to force his way into Everton’s first team due to the form of Joleon Lescott at left-back, but Lescott’s switch to the centre of defence during the 2008/9 campaign gave Baines the opportunity he needed and he seized it with both hands.

It resulted in his first England call-up in 2009 and he made his debut in a friendly against Egypt in March 2010 but missed out on selection for the World Cup that summer.

He then played every minute of every league game during the 2010/11 season before being voted as the club’s Player of the Season, and in 2011/12 he became the first Everton player in 22 years to be chosen for the PFA Team of the Year.

The individual honours have not been matched by team triumphs though and Everton remain without a trophy since their 1995 FA Cup success, when Baines was a youngster in the crowd as they beat Manchester United in the Wembley final.

Baines believes the current crop of players could give the 1995 team a good game but admits they cannot be considered their equals until they also land some silverware.

“They had a good team then and we’ve got a good team now but they will be remembered because of what they achieved and that surpasses anything,” he said.

“If anyone wants to stake a claim to being better than them well then prove it because they went there and did it and unless we do that we can’t talk about being better than them. If you don’t achieve anything then you are not going to get remembered.”

It seems Baines is at a crossroads in his career. Rumours of a summer move to Manchester United refuse to go away and such a transfer would be a huge boost to his hopes of forcing his way into the England team on a regular basis before the 2014 World Cup comes around.

The future of Toffees boss Moyes is uncertain given his contract expires in the summer and the Merseyside club could be waiting several more years for a trophy if they are unable to keep hold of the Scotsman and the influential Baines. Baines is married to Rachel and they have two children.

FACTFILE Name: Leighton Baines England debut: v Egypt, March 2010 England caps: 14

Moment to remember: His fellow professionals voted him as the best left-back in the EPL during the 2011/12 season.

Moment to forget: Was a member of the Wigan team beaten 4-0 in the League Cup final in 2006.

His strife: Being omitted from England’s 23-man World Cup squad in 2010 after being included in the provisional 30-man party.

© PA Sport, 2013, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited. Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.