THERE is no danger of Leighton Baines taking life easy just because Ashley Cole has retired from international football.
For the last few years Baines has been one of the best full-backs in Europe, but he has not been able to hold down a regular place in the England team because of Cole.
Fabio Capello, and Roy Hodgson for a time, concluded that despite Baines’ performances for Everton, Cole remained in control of the left-back slot due to his experience and defensive abilities.
Baines finally emerged from Cole’s shadow ten days ago though when the 107-cap defender called time on his international career.
Baines goes to Brazil as Hodgson’s first-choice leftback - “a great vote of confidence,” the Everton defender states.
But the emergence of Southampton teenager Luke Shaw, who will be Baines’ understudy in South America, means the former Wigan man cannot afford to believe he is the main man now.
“I cannot allow myself to believe,” Baines said.
ON THE RUN: Baines in training with England yesterday in Portugal
“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 By Paul Hirst 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.”
Many of the 100 plus media who had gathered to watch England train in Vale do Lobo on Wednesday were watching Shaw closely.
The 18-year-old has had a superb season with Southampton and now he is the subject of a £27m bid from Manchester United.
Shaw let a simple pass roll under his left foot and out of play on one occasion and then a couple of his crosses went astray during the hour-long session at England’s windswept base.
But Baines believes England have a quality full-back who may even go on to eclipse the 13-year international career Cole enjoyed with the Three Lions.
“Luke has been amazing,” Baines said. “Luke and some of the other younger lads have been great for English football.
“Luke 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 12-15 years.”
Had Cole and Baines been a generation apart, maybe the likeable scouser would have been England’s go to man at left-back for that amount of time.
Given that Shaw is so young, 29-year-old Baines will be lucky to collect half as many caps as Cole.
The Kirkby-born defender would be forgiven for holding a grudge against Cole, but that is not the case.
“I always enjoyed Ashley’s company when we were in the squad, so in that respect I will miss him,” Baines said.
To help alleviate the boredom that comes with being away from family and friends for a few weeks, Baines will take a number of books to Brazil.
His current read of choice is Last Exit to Brooklyn, by Hubert Selby Junior - a book about hoodlums in the 1950s.
The stylish defender shares a love of literature with Hodgson.
“He caught me with a book by (Japanese novellist Haruki) Murakami once,” Baines said. “He is a big Murakami fan and we had a good chat about that.
Baines was asked how he saw the next chapter of England’s World Cup history developing in Brazil.
“All the talk is irrelevant really. It’s what we go and do out there that is important,” he said.