Leighton Baines: I'm not afraid of anyone, but I had to run from Liam Gallagher

30 April 2011 01:27
Leighton Baines has been a revelation this season. While Everton's form has fluctuated, sometimes wildly, their left back has been a model of consistency and earned a raft of rave reviews.

His manager, David Moyes, puts it down to this self-confessed introvert emerging from his shell and that new-found confidence has shone through in his performances - but not into meetings with Liam Gallagher, one of his musical heroes. Sportsmail finds out why.

All about confidence: Leighton Baines is relaxed off the pitch, but his form on it has led to an England recall

EARLY YEARS Baines grew up in Kirkby, a tough district of Liverpool, dreaming of playing for one of the city's big clubs. Everton signed him from today's opponents Wigan for ?6million in July 2007, having released him twice as a teenager.

Wigan warrior: Baines earned his stripes away from Merseyside, before returning

'I used to play in midfield and up front. It was only when I went to Wigan I became a left back. I played in all the usual avenues: school, representative, Sunday league. I was at Everton until I was 12 but was released at the same time as Phil Jagielka and Joey Barton.

'I played Sunday league for a team called Key Ways. We had good players like Ryan Taylor (now at Newcastle) and David Nugent (Portsmouth). When I was 15, I knew I had to try to get a club, as I was coming towards the end of school.

'I went back to Everton for a trial but they let me go again. I then went to Liverpool but they had a left back and stuck with him. It felt like the end of the world.

'Everyone in your family and your friends are either Red or Blue. I came home that day and thought that was it. To be told I was not good enough was a massive blow. From there I went to Wolves and played a trial match.

'They were happy with me and wanted me to come back but at the same time I played a couple of games for Wigan and they wanted me to sign. Geographically it was easier for my parents, so that's where I went and where I stayed.'

THE PRESENT With six goals in 39 appearances, Baines is odds-on favourite to be named Everton's player of the season yet he was surprisingly omitted from the PFA team.

'I will never have any qualms about being voted behind the best left back in the world. But it's nice that people felt I had claims to be in.

'All I try to do is get as close to the level Ashley Cole has set and keep improving. I've changed a lot over the last couple of years. I feel more confident, comfortable with who I am and self-assured. That never used to be the case.'

Specialist: Baines has scored an impressive six times this season for Everton

ENGLAND Baines has been capped four times but his England career is best known for the circumstances surrounding his omission from the final 23 for the World Cup. He missed the cut at the last minute amid reports he would be homesick in South Africa.

'To not go was one thing but the way it came about made it more disappointing. It tarnished a good season. If you don't get picked because you are not good enough, fine. But to feel like it may have been because of what was written peppered the pill.

International pedigree: He remains Ashley Cole's understudy but continues to get England chances

'I got a phone call from Fabio Capello. It was 10 seconds, if that, and he just told me I hadn't made it. I'd heard whispers that I wasn't going to be in, so it wasn't out of the blue. But it took a while to move on and lingered over the summer. When I got back in the squad, I didn't get any indication as to why I never went to the World Cup.

'I hope it was because they felt I wasn't good enough rather than what was written in the papers. But there's no problem and the last game against Ghana was my most enjoyable yet.'

MUSICMusic is not so much Baines's hobby as a way of life. He writes a weekly blog for Everton's website and has an encyclopedic knowledge of bands.

'The last gig I went to was Beady Eye in Manchester. Some people aren't having them but I thought they were good. Miles Kane was supporting and I know Miles a bit. I ended up going backstage to have a chat with Miles. As I was waiting, Liam Gallagher appeared through this door.

Rock n Roll Star: Liam Gallagher left Baines starstruck

'I just froze. He is quite intimidating up close. I caught his eye and he said, 'All right?' to me. I said it back but then scarpered. He must have wondered, 'What's this little squirt doing here!' I got out of his way as quick as I could.'

THE FUTURE Baines's form has not gone unnoticed and in the last six months he has been linked with Bayern Munich, Arsenal and Liverpool. Leaving Goodison, though, is not on the agenda.

'I see the stories but I don't pay any attention to them. It's nice on some levels to think there might be a bit of appreciation but there is not much else to it. Anything with regards to my future, the club will decide it. I'm barely a year into a five-year deal and I'm happy.'

Leighton Baines was promoting Thomas Cook Sport, official travel partner of Everton. Match Breaks at Goodison Park for the rest of the season are available now by calling 0844 800 9900 or visiting www.thomascooksport.com

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 Explore more:People: David Moyes, Fabio Capello, Ryan Taylor, Ashley Cole, Phil Jagielka, Liam Gallagher, Joey Barton Places: Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, United Kingdom, Ghana, South Africa

Source: Daily_Mail