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Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Baines ready for competitive England bow

ESPN staff

Everton left-back Leighton Baines has said he is relishing the challenge of replacing injury victim Ashley Cole when England take on Moldova in Chisnau on Friday.

Baines, 27, will start his first competitive England game - two and a half years after making his international debut - because of Chelsea man Cole's ankle problem.

He knows that Cole, on the verge of 100 England appearances, is almost certain to replace him as soon as he is fit again, and said: "Ashley has been fantastic over the years. It has been difficult for anyone to get a look in. The main thing, for club and country, is his consistency. He is one of the first names on the teamsheet because he is such a reliable performer. We often depend on him."

Baines said he and his England colleagues were benefiting from a more relaxed regime under Roy Hodgson than had been the case under his predecessor Fabio Capello.

"There is a shift in mentality," he explained. "When you are around the place, you are more relaxed and enjoy each other's company a bit more. It is difficult to make direct comparisons, but Roy has had a positive influence. He is an English manager, so it is a lot easier for him to get his points across to the players.

"Now he has more time with the squad, it has given him more chance to implement those ideas - and hopefully you will see that out on the pitch."

Hodgson must try to get England's World Cup campaign off to a good start amid an injury crisis that has seen Cole, Wayne Rooney, Andy Carroll and Gareth Barry ruled out. And Baines admitted: "The depth of the squad is going to be tested. There are a lot of players missing, but we still have a strong squad that is well capable of winning these two games."

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