Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Baines spurred on by Capello rejection

Star turn: Leighton Baines was impressive in the win over Montenegro
Star turn: Leighton Baines was impressive in the win over Montenegro

Leighton Baines is desperate to avoid missing out on another World Cup with England.

Baines made a late surge into the England squad prior to the 2010 World Cup but despite starting the warm-up games against Egypt and Mexico, Fabio Capello cut the defender loose, omitting him from his 23-man party for South Africa.

Baines had said in the run-up to the World Cup that he was homesick, although he has always maintained he would have been more than happy to represent his country at the tournament.

He will have a second chance to play for England at a World Cup next summer providing that Roy Hodgson's men finish the job tomorrow night by beating Poland.

If England fail to win they will be condemned to a tricky play-off and Baines feels there is no bigger motivation for the team to get the victory they need.

"Qualifying for a World Cup is as big a carrot as you could probably dangle in front of any player," the Everton left-back said.

"World Cups don't come around too often in a player's career. Everyone is hungry for that opportunity to get there and we are one game away from there.

"We know what job needs to be done and hopefully we will do it.

"The magnitude of the game is something we are all aware of. On Friday we had to make sure it was in our own hands and we have to go and finish the job now."

Baines was one of the star performers on Friday night as England demolished Montenegro 4-1 to remain top of Group H.

The 28-year-old is enjoying the best form of his life at Everton, but he is still not guaranteed a starting spot for his country because of Ashley Cole's recent displays.

Baines admits he is playing with more freedom because of the knowledge that he will start tomorrow due to Cole's injury.

"You enjoy it a lot more when you know you are going to get a game," said Baines, who despite his talent has just 20 caps to his name.

"It was good to be able to prepare for the game in that frame of mind, really, rather than just waiting in the wings.

"There is a significance with every cap you get and you grow into it more and more. It has been good to be involved in more qualifiers in this campaign.

"I'm pleased with how things are going at the moment and it was great to play on Friday and win."

Baines was by no means the only decent performer against the Montenegrins.

Wayne Rooney became the highest competitive goal scorer in England's history when he opened the scoring and there was also an encouraging performance from Danny Welbeck.

Andros Townsend stole the show, however, with a goal and an assist on debut.

Baines has been given a torrid time in training by the Tottenham winger and has backed the 22-year-old to put on a repeat performance against Poland.

"It was great for him to score that goal and he is now an important part of the squad who can produce match-winning performances," Baines said.

Many were taken back by Roy Hodgson's decision to hand Townsend his debut and the England manager's general positivity in the build-up to the game.

Ex-professionals came out in force to denounce England after their drab 0-0 draw in Kiev, but Baines sees plenty of reason for optimism.

"We have fresh blood and excitement combined with the experience of other players. That mix puts us in a great position to try and do something," added Baines.

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