Player of the day: Leighton Baines
Today’s Player of the Day is the Everton and England left back Leighton Baines. Having started his career with Wigan Athletic, Baines has since moved to Everton and has become renowned as one of the country’s best full backs.
Baines initially began his career as a left-winger at the Liverpool Centre of Excellence as a boyhood Liverpool fan. He also represented the Merseyside boys team, but his career went no further at Liverpool. After interest from Wolverhampton Wanderers he joined Wigan Athletic. Baines made his debut for Wigan Athletic in 2002, and was a member of the team that won the Second Division in the 2002–03 season. He was a regular in the first-team when Wigan earned promotion to the Premier League in 2004–05. That season saw Baines score his first goal for the club, a long-range shot against Ipswich Town.
Baines signed a new contract with Wigan in February 2005 despite being linked to a number of FA Premier League clubs, including Manchester United, Arsenal and Everton, and extended his contract again after impressive displays in his first season in the Premier League. Whilst at Wigan he started in the 2006 League Cup Final defeat to Manchester United.
In July 2007 Baines rejected a move to Sunderland, after their bid of a reported £6 million was accepted by Wigan. In the following month he signed for Everton for an initial fee of £5 million, with another £1 million in add-ons, dependant on Baines' appearances for Everton.
He did not play regularly in his first season, making just 29 appearances in all competitions, due to an injury and the good form of Phil Jagielka and Joseph Yobo at centre back which kept Joleon Lescott at left back. His second season at Everton saw an increase in Baines's playing time. Due to an injury to Yobo, Lescott moved to the centre of defence and Baines played at left back. He was voted Player of the Month at Everton two months in a row in the 2008–09 season. Baines scored his first ever Everton goal against Portsmouth on 21 March, at Fratton Park, after 57 games (in all competitions) without scoring. On 30 August 2009, he scored a last minute penalty in a 2–1 win over his former team Wigan. A month later, he captained Everton for the first time in a UEFA Europa League match against AEK Athens.
In the 2010–11 campaign Baines played every minute of Everton's Premier League games, as well as scoring seven goals in all competitions. His contribution was rewarded with the club's Player of the Season, Players' Player of the Season, and Goal of the Season awards. Two of those goals were free kicks against Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea. The goal against Chelsea was voted Everton Goal of the Season. The other goals came against Manchester City, Scunthorpe United, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic. He also contributed 11 assists throughout the season and was 5th overall in the League and was the league's highest assisting defender.
Baines scored five times during the 2011–12 season, and reached 99 consecutive league games before ending his season early due to injury. His performance at left back was deemed impressive enough to be named in the PFA's Premier League Team of the Year in 2012, the first Everton player to do so for 22 years since Neville Southall was named in the 1989–90 Team of the Year.
Baines was called up to the senior England squad for the first time in March 2009 and made his full international debut in a friendly against Egypt at Wembley Stadium on 3 March 2010, playing the full 90 minutes of a 3–1 win for England. He was selected in a provisional squad of 30 players for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but did not make the final squad of 23 players to be taken to South Africa, with Aston Villa left-back Stephen Warnock, who had not played in the warm-up games, taken in his place. Baines made his competitive international debut on 4 June 2011, replacing the injured Ashley Cole in a Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland, assisting Ashley Young for England's equalizing goal.
Baines was named in Roy Hodgson's squad for Euro 2012 in May, but did not feature in the tournament with Hodgson using Ashley Cole for all four of England's games. In September 2012, he scored his first international goal against Moldova in a 2014 World Qualification match, a deflected free kick which was the last of England's goals in a 5–0 win.
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