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 By Kevin Palmer

England's Baines ready to shine

Everton full-back Leighton Baines has been forced to wait for his chance to establish himself as an England first choice starter, and he is eager to make the most of the opportunity that has come his way at this summer's World Cup finals.

Ashley Cole's 107-cap international career left Baines as a back-up to the Chelsea left-back in recent years, but England boss Roy Hodgson has opted to go with Baines as his starter for Brazil 2014 and the 29-year-old is confident he can shine in the South American heat.

"I'm not going to allow myself to think; 'I'm the main man,'" Baines told the media at England's World Cup training camp in Portugal.

"At this level, the competition is always going to be there. You have to keep on your toes and not get complacent because if you don't do the right things then you are not going to be playing.

"Things can change very quickly so I think whoever starts the first game in the tournament has to do the job otherwise they are not going to stay in the team.

Baines went on to praise Southampton's teenage full-back Luke Shaw and the veteran Cole, as he suggested England boss Hodgson had an enjoyable task of picking his two left-back picks for his 23-man World Cup squad. Cole was left off the team for Brazil.

"I looked at what might happen and it was obvious three doesn't go into two," added Baines. "The manager could have picked any pairing and no one would have really questioned it, but the fact he has chosen me and Luke is a great vote of confidence, especially because Ash is a phenomenal player, a great guy.

"I always enjoyed Ashley's company when we were in the squad, so in that respect I will miss him. We had a few years in the squads together and I felt like I had a decent relationship with him.

Leighton Baines fires Everton in front from the penalty spot.
Leighton Baines takes a shot while playing with his Premier League team Everton this season.

"When he announced his retirement he had some nice words to say. He dealt with it really well and was really dignified. From my experience of Ash, I wouldn't have expected anything different.

"As for Luke, he has been amazing. He is one of the ones who is now at the forefront of the squad. How old is he now? 18? He has an amazing future in front of him. He is going to be an England international for the next 12 to 15 years."

Meanwhile, England boss Roy Hodgson has hit back at the criticism from former Manchester United captain Roy Keane over his decision to stand by the Manchester United duo of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones in his England squad.

Keane suggested neither Smalling or Jones had performed well for United in recent months and were fortunate to make the trip to Brazil, but Hodgson is confident the duo have plenty to offer.

"If you are a TV pundit you are required to give your opinion and I don't expect everyone's opinions to fall in with mine," stated Hodgson.

"It has not been a great year for Manchester United, but they have used so many players and their back line has changed virtually every week. In my opinion they [Smalling and Jones] fully justify their selection.

"Any games in particular that Smalling has played he has certainly never let me down as a coach and I don't think he's ever let the nation down, whether he's played centre-back or right-back."


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