Baines happy with England progress

Leighton Baines is delighted with the progress he has made with England over the last 12 months.

Last Updated: 16/03/13 at 10:39 Post Comment

Leighton Baines: Pushing Ashley Cole at left-back

Leighton Baines: Pushing Ashley Cole at left-back

While Rio Ferdinand's inclusion in the Three Lions squad to face San Marino and Montenegro later this month grabbed all the attention, the fact Baines' presence merited no discussion underlined the giant strides he has made.

The Everton defender has started five out of seven England games so far this season and was a half-time substitute in one of the others. Indeed, there are some who feel Baines is actually a better bet than Ashley Cole, who reached his century of caps against Brazil last month.

Baines is too diplomatic to get involved in any discussion like that.

However, speaking on a tour of the Ellesmere Port car plant of England team sponsors Vauxhall, Baines said: "It has been a positive 12 months for me.

"I have been involved more and got more game time. I am in as good a place as I have been in international football.

"I was 25 when I first came into the England squad.

"Maybe it took me a bit of time to accumulate any experience, or get any kind of caps just because there is such a good player in the same position as me.

"But I just try and do my own thing. The rest is down to the manager."

While it is undeniable that the crucial aspect of the Three Lions' latest engagement - their trip to Group H leaders Montenegro on March 26 - will mean nothing if England do not beat San Marino in Serravalle on Friday, the chances of that happening are virtually nil.

After all, San Marino's only victory came in a friendly against Liechtenstein in 2004, and when they came to Wembley in October, a country with a population of less than 32,000 managed just a single shot.

"It is strange because you really don't get any games like that in the Premier League," said Baines.

"Their objective is to stay in the game for as long as they can and sometimes it is not quite as simple as you think because they stick so many bodies behind the ball.

"If you don't score after about 20 minutes you might be tempted to force things. If they don't come off, you can get a bit anxious.

"An early goal always helps but you like to think, over the course of 90 minutes, with the players we have, we can get the job done."

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nd yet... Jermain Defoe is still going to pronounce himself gobsmacked when he learns he hasn't made the England squad for the Euro qualifiers.

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