Leighton Baines

Leighton Baines: Talentspotter

Everton and England left-back Leighton Baines speaks to FourFourTwo back in December 2004, when he was at Wigan Athletic.

NicknameĀ 
Plain old Bainesy. We've all got boring nicknames, except "The Duke" [Nathan Ellington].

As a boy I supported...
Liverpool. As a local lad I used to watch from the Kop when Robbie Fowler was making his name. I started out at Liverpool's Centre of Excellence and although it was disappointing when nothing came of it, I was lucky that both Wigan and Wolves wanted to sign me.

Strengths
I started my career as a left-winger, so my passing and ability to get forward are pretty good. You tend to find that quite a few players who start out as attacking players get pushed back when they turn pro.

Weaknesses
I'm not a natural defender, so I tend to stay behind after training and work on my heading, particularly in terms of timing. I'm also pretty one-footed, so I'll ping a few balls with my right foot at the end of a session. I'd like to take an extra touch to get the ball on my left but I know I won't always have that luxury higher up the ladder.

International honours
Three England U21 caps. I came into contention when Peter Taylor returned as coach.

Highlight
Making my under-21 debut against Austria in August. The call-up came out of the blue, then all of a sudden I'm starting the game. It was fantastic to line up for the national anthem and I settled really well. I found the game slow when in possession but very quick when you're defending the final third. I linked up well with Stewart Downing and kept my place for the Poland game the following week.

Lowlight
Getting sent off at Ipswich last season for two yellow cards. I got booked for diving when I was just trying to avoid a tackle. Then, late in the game, Darren Bent ran into me and we both went over. It was very harsh, but we won 3-1, which helped.

Toughest opponent
I came up against Gaizka Mendieta last year when we played Middlesbrough in the Carling Cup. He was great technically and never wasted a pass. Jason Koumas also sticks in the mind: I faced him on my Wigan debut as a 17-year-old.

Practical joker
Jimmy Bullard and Michael Flynn give out the most stick and usually hammer each other about their clothes. I used to be immune as a young lad, but they've now started on me, taking the mick because I wear more funky gear!

Best advice received
Paul Jewell and the coaching staff have always told me not to be overawed, no matter who I'm up against. Even against Mendieta and Juninho, I treated them both as just another player, leaving me to concentrate on my game.

Tunes
I've got Happy People by R Kelly in my car at the moment.

Wheels
I'm not really into cars and I'm still driving my old Astra at the moment. Maybe I'll get myself a small BMW or a Merc later in the season.

Favourite TV programme
I used to be a big fan of Friends, but I'd probably go for 24 as a more recent programme. I've just bought the third series on DVD.

First boots worn
I can remember the first coloured pair; they were red, which, looking back, were awful, but playing for Merseyside Boys, I thought they looked good with the red kit!

Biggest weakness
Chocolate. After every meal I have to eat something sweet, like a Mars or a Snickers.

Best mate in football
Nathan Ellington when he's not joined to the hip of Jason Roberts! I hang around with them a fair bit. We have similar tastes in music and fashion, and Nath is also the next youngest in the squad.

I spend my cash on
My son. He's only 11 months old, so I make sure he never goes without. I haven't bought him a mini Liverpool kit. Yet!

What's your latest ringtone?
Got It Twisted by Mobb Deep.

Fave babe
After watching The Girl Next Door recently, it would have to be Elisha Cuthbert.

In five years time
I'll hopefully be playing regularly for Wigan in the Premiership. Things are going well at the moment and we're all determined to get there. Making the step up with England would be a nice bonus.

Interview: Luke Nicoli. From December 2004 issue of FourFourTwo.


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