international news

Baines delighted to win first England call-up

March 23, 2009

Everton defender Leighton Baines has described his England call-up as the "proudest moment of my career".

The left-back, who scored his first goal of the season in Everton's 2-1 defeat at Portsmouth, was certainly cheered up by being named 24 hours later in England boss Fabio Capello's squad for the forthcoming games against Slovakia and Ukraine.

He will join team-mates Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka in the squad, the first time since the 1980s that Everton have had this many players in an England party.

For Baines, who has won 16 under-21 caps, this is a dramatic turnaround in his career, with worrying injury problems blighting the beginning of his Everton career after the £6million move from Wigan in August 2007.

Baines said: "This is the proudest moment of my career. To get recognition at this level is something everyone aspires to, I am delighted and honoured to have been named called up.

"Everything has happened so quickly. I was only thinking the other day that at Christmas I felt I would be lucky to get a run of two or three games in our team.

"But I am feeling a lot more confident now. Things had been stop-start since I came here but I always felt that if I could get a run of 12 or 15 games I would be much better.

"Thankfully that has happened and I am so pleased with the way things have gone recently. When I knew I was in the (original) 30-man squad, I would have been happy enough with that.

"I never really expected to get the (further) call but it is a terrific opportunity and I will give it my best shot.''

Baines has played a key role in Everton's progress into the FA Cup semi-finals, and he added: "This is massive for the club, it shows just how much Everton have progressed. The training ground will be pretty empty this week with so many of the lads away on international duty.''

Another Everton full-back, Lars Jacobsen, is also pretty happy with life at the moment having made his debut at Portsmouth on Saturday.

Jacobsen has struggled to make an impression at the club after joining on a free transfer from Nurnberg last August.

But injuries to Tony Hibbert and Joseph Yobo meant a place in the side for Jacobsen at Fratton Park.

He said: "I was happy to play but I was not happy about the result because we want to win every time, I was really disappointed but happy to make my debut.

"We were winning 1-0, a fantastic free-kick from Leighton Baines, and we expected to get more. But us we didn't play well enough.''