Leighton Baines feels Roy Hodgson got his tenure off to a great start when he brought Gary Neville in as one of his England assistants.

Neville had no coaching experience to speak of when he was invited into the England fold by Hodgson immediately before UEFA EURO 2012. As the plain-speaking former Manchester United defender was not even asked to relinquish his high-profile TV role, Hodgson's decision was a talking point for some.

Yet Neville has brought the same thorough approach that has earned him rave reviews for his TV work, and as the last of his 85 England caps was earned in a team that also contained current skipper Steven Gerrard, plus Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe and even Ben Foster, who was recalled to the Three Lions fold by Hodgson yesterday, Baines believes the 38-year-old provides a very useful bridge between the playing staff and the management.

Baines said: "It was a wise move to bring him in. Gary didn't have a lot of experience in coaching but he had a ton of it from playing at the top level, playing in huge matches for club and country and working with top managers. You can't buy things like that.

"He is obviously a football man who thinks a lot about the game. All the players can go to him with any kind of problem and he can draw on his own experience."

And, as anyone with even the smallest experience of Neville will be aware, he is not scared to voice an opinion. "He is never short of that," said Baines. "He is a good character. He has played with a lot of the players that are playing now, so he has a good relationship with them.

"He has experienced all the things we are going through. Also, as everyone has seen on TV, he is very good at assessing teams, either looking at the opposition or our own game, which is another useful tool."

San Marino, then Montenegro
Not that Neville should need to do too much work on San Marino, the first part of England's FIFA World Cup™ qualifying double-header, next Friday. Whilst it is undeniable that the crucial aspect of the Three Lions' latest engagement - their trip to Group H leaders Montenegro on 26 March - will mean nothing if England do not win in Serravalle, the chances of that happening are virtually non-existent.

After all, San Marino's only victory came in a friendly against Liechtenstein in 2004, and when they came to Wembley in October, a country with a population of less than 32,000 managed just a single shot. "It is strange because you really don't get any games like that in the Premier League," said Baines. "Their objective is to stay in the game for as long as they can and sometimes it is not quite as simple as you think because they stick so many bodies behind the ball.

"If you don't score after about 20 minutes you might be tempted to force things. If they don't come off, you can get a bit anxious. An early goal always helps but you like to think, over the course of 90 minutes, with the players we have, we can get the job done."

The chances are Baines will be picked against San Marino too, as he was in October before making way for Ashley Cole, who reached his century of caps against Brazil last month. The Brazil game was one of only two fixtures this season that Baines has not started, rich reward for another outstanding season at Everton and further proof Cole is no longer the automatic choice he has for so long appeared to be.

"It has been a positive 12 months for me," said Baines. "I have been involved more and got more game time. I am in as good a place as I have been in international football. I was 25 when I first came into the England squad.

"Maybe it took me a bit of time to accumulate any experience, or get any kind of caps just because there is such a good player in the same position as me. But I just try and do my own thing. The rest is down to the manager."