Everton boss David Moyes hails his England star Leighton Baines
DAVID MOYES today hailed the exceptional form that has given Leighton Baines a chance to win his first England cap this weekend.
The Everton defender will be in Fabio Capello's squad for tomorrow's friendly against Slovakia, along with team-mates Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott.
But as Chelsea's Ashley Cole is the only other recognised left-back in the 23-man party, Baines has an outstanding chance of getting some minutes on the pitch at Wembley.
Should that be the case, it will complete a remarkable turnaround in his fortunes as four months ago Baines could not even get in Everton's first team.
"I always said to him that his chance here would come and he has been very professional about everything," said Moyes, who signed the 24-year-old for ÃÂ£6m in July 2007.
"To be fair, he had injuries last season and Joleon did so well when he was at left back that it was impossible to leave him out.
"Bainesy - like all of them - wants to play every game. But he never sulked or moaned, he just got on with it and for the last two or three months he's been exceptional.
"Full credit to him for that, because it's not easy when you're not in the side. But he just hung in there and showed what a good player he is when the chance came."
Since coming on as a substitute against Chelsea on December 22, Baines has made 17 consecutive appearances and caught the eye when he was watched by Capello's assistants Franco Baldini and Stuart Pearce in each of Everton's last two games.
That has given Moyes confidence that Baines has not gone down to London just to make up the numbers and should he win a cap, his manager feels it would be fully deserved.
"My worry would have been if he'd gone as the third left-back and just basically gone for the trip," said Moyes. "But with Ashley Cole the only other, I'd hope he might get a chance against Slovakia at least."
Aside from the three representatives in the England squad, Everton will have two other players involved in World Cup qualifiers this weekend.
Marouane Fellaini will play for Belgium against Bosnia and Lars Jacobsen is with Denmark in Malta, but Tim Howard is set to spend the next 48 hours kicking his heels.
He is suspended for the USA's game against El Salvador and admits it is hugely frustrating that he has made a long trip not but is not involved.
"Rules are rules," Howard said. "I always want to be playing and that goes without saying."