Leighton Baines spoke of his admiration for former Everton forward Wayne Rooney ahead of the England superstar facing his old side this afternoon. Baines, speaking after England’s victory over Brazil in midweek, spoke of goalscorer Rooney’s prowess in front of goal.
“Wayne’s a great player, we’ve seen that over the years,” Baines told FIFA.com. “He’s one of the important players for our country that we rely on to produce goals or special moments in games. He’s already got a great record in terms of his caps and his goals and he’s still got many years ahead of him.”
Baines mentioned Rooney’s attitude in training, as well as on the field, as a factor in the Manchester United forward’s rise to the top of the world game.
“You see on the pitch that he’s a big character and that’s the same off the pitch. He’s a leader on and off the field. He’s one of the more vocal ones. You can see after we conceded the goal in the second half [against Brazil] he was the one coming back and remonstrating. That’s what you get in five-a-side in training as well.”
The left-back came through the same youth system as Rooney at Everton, and the Manchester United star was the talk of the town growing up. “I’d heard of him because I was at Everton myself,” Baines said. “There were a few good players coming through but Wayne was obviously the one that people talked about more than most.”
Baines picked up his 14th England cap against Brazil in midweek, and the Everton man is pleased to see other members of his club side get call-ups to Roy Hodgson’s squad.
“It’s nice to have a couple of lads from the club just because it’s good recognition for the club and the form we’re in - inevitably when a team’s in good form you’re going to get individuals who are playing well. Me and Phil Jagielka have been in the squads for a little while now but Leon Osman getting in as well is fantastic recognition for himself and the club.”
With his direct rival for the England left-back berth Ashley Cole reaching 100 international appearances in Wednesday’s friendly, Baines admitted he was working hard to maintain his current form and impress Roy Hodgson.
“There’s not one person out there that doesn’t have things to improve on – I’m as conscious of my weaknesses as anyone because I live with them. I know what they are and I’m always working and trying to do things to make sure they’re not exposed.
“I’m trying from my end , I don’t know how far or how close I am in the manager’s thoughts but I'm doing what I can from my end, keeping my form up – trying to play as well as I can and keep myself up there.”