Baines backs Cole for century
Leighton Baines has set his sights on holding onto the England left-back role but still expects Ashley Cole to reach the 100-cap mark. Baines turned in another impressive performance during Friday night's 5-0 win over minnows San Marino in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley. The Everton player has started all four internationals since the Euro 2012 finals as Cole nurses an ankle problem, and now looks a genuine contender for the number three shirt. It has given Baines a hunger to make further appearances for his country but he anticipates Cole becoming the sixth England player to win 100 caps sooner rather than later. He also admits playing regular European football would also help his cause with England. Baines said: "Ashley is a terrific player but, in the games I've played, I've shown I can come in and do a job as well. "It would be nice to hold onto the shirt if I can. You want to play so, the more games you play, the happier you are. "I've started the last few games so I'm very happy with that. Do I want more of this? Of course. It's natural. Everyone wants to play so getting the games recently has been nice." Baines admitted: "It has been a long wait for me but Ashley has deserved every one of his 98 caps and hopefully he will reach the 100 mark because he deserves it. "I don't think I will be denying him that. It will happen. Ashley is a top player and I'm sure he will get to the milestone. "I've no idea if I can challenge him. All I can do is play as well as I can for Everton and that's all I'm really focused on. "Over the course of a season your form level will ebb and flow a bit. It's already done that. I've had a couple of games where I've not played as well as in others." Baines has been in fine form for Everton as they have made an impressive start to the campaign, having been notorious slow starters in recent years. But he claimed: "I don't know if I'm in the best form of my career. My form at the moment doesn't feel too different to what it has been over the last couple of years. "I've been enjoying playing, we've been doing well back at the club, picked up some good results and it's been fun." When asked if regular European football would bolster his own claims, Baines said: "Maybe. Probably it is better asking the manager if he feels that is a factor in his decision-making. "But I suppose if you were playing in those competitions, it would weigh in your favour." Baines concedes it represents a different challenge when facing a side ranked as low as San Marino - joint 207th in the FIFA rankings. There have been some calls for such minnows to play a qualifying round before entering the group stages. Baines said: "It is difficult. It is difficult for the people who govern those situations to change the rules of the competition. "It was a pretty one-sided affair and that has been the case for many of San Marino's games. "It is something you are not accustomed to, particularly at this level. "Without being disrespectful, they are not quite up to the standard of the majority of the sides at this level. "It is a different entity when you play a side like that but it is just about getting the job done and getting the game won and we did that. "It was a good performance. In the games we've seen them play recently, sides have struggled to score in the opening 25 minutes so we were sort of prepared for that. "They packed a lot of men behind the ball, we had to stay patient but, once we got the first goal, it was pretty comfortable." Baines knows Tuesday's game in Poland will represent a sterner test and will be a special occasion for Everton team-mate Phil Jagielka, with his Polish connections. He said: "It will be completely different. We know they are a much better side, a really good team with some good players. "It will be a hostile atmosphere and a big challenge for young lads. It is a passionate place for football. "We haven't given Phil any stick yet about being half-Polish but I'm sure it will be a big occasion for him and his family. His grandparents is where the Polish heritage comes from."
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