Baines eager to take England chance

  • Last Updated: September 5 2012, 14:16 BST

Leighton Baines has no issue living in Ashley Cole's shadow - but he is eager to step into the limelight himself in Moldova on Friday.

Leighton Baines: Set for first competitive start

Cole's hopes of becoming the first full-back to make a century of England appearances during this month's World Cup double-header have been dashed by the ankle injury that has prevented him making the trip to Chisinau.

It means finally, two-and-a-half years after making his debut, Baines will get to start a competitive game for the first time.

Yet the Everton man knows his place is only temporary.

If Cole recovers in time for the visit of Ukraine to Wembley on Tuesday, Baines will be straight out of the team.

It is not something Baines' competitive instincts lets him willingly accept. But the 27-year-old is aware enough to realise why the natural order has Cole at the top.

"Ashley has been fantastic over the years," said Baines.

"It has been difficult for anyone to get a look in.

"The main thing, for club and country, is his consistency. He is one of the first names on the team sheet because he is such a reliable performer. He is an eight out of 10 minimum every week.

"We often depend on him."

And though Baines, and Ryan Bertrand amongst others, are in direct competition, they can learn from the 31-year-old.

"He is someone, for the rest of us, for Ryan and myself and Kieran Gibbs, who is not in the squad but is a young left-back coming through, to look at and try to learn from."

Baines has been regarded as Cole's deputy for almost all those 30 months.

Surprisingly though, he was left out of the World Cup squad by Fabio Capello amid claims comments made about suffering homesickness had been taken rather too literally.

As Capello never actually asked Baines about them, still less offered any kind of explanation why, after starting two pre-tournament friendlies, he was axed from the provisional squad in favour of Stephen Warnock, who had not featured for a minute, the former Wigan man can offer no insight.

It would not be out of keeping for Capello though, who ran a somewhat austere ship, where communication was kept to a minimum.

The Italian's successor is not like that.

Roy Hodgson threw open England's entire training session to the media on Monday, something unimaginable when Capello was in charge.

And, as Baines has observed, the relaxed attitude runs right through the entire camp.

"There is a shift in mentality," said Baines

"When you are around the place you are more relaxed and enjoy each other's company a bit more.

"Maybe it was a bit stiffer before that.

"It is difficult to make direct comparisons but Roy has had a positive influence.

"He is an English manager, so it is a lot easier for him to get his points across to the players.

"Now he has more time with the squad it has given him more chance to implement those ideas.

"Hopefully you will see that out on the pitch."

Cole's absence is just one injury blow Hodgson has suffered in the build-up to Friday's game.

Most damaging is the gashed thigh that rules Wayne Rooney out.

Fellow striker Andy Carroll has been sidelined by a hamstring strain, whilst Gareth Barry has still not recovered from the groin injury that ruled him out of Euro 2012.

"The depth of the squad is going to be tested," said Baines.

"There are a lot of players missing but we still have a strong squad and it is well capable of winning these two games."

And that would be the perfect start to what Baines regards as the real beginning to Hodgson's tenure.

"We are getting the benefit of Roy's experience in preparation now. The structure that he likes to set the team up by," he said.

"The situation before was slightly different because of the changeover of manager before a tournament, which wasn't ideal.

"Now it starts properly."