Everton Focus - Baines and Jagielka stake their England claim
The international fixtures have afforded two Everton players with the opportunity to stake their claim to usurp two Chelsea players in the England set-up. Leighton Baines started for Roy Hodgson against San Marino as Ashley Cole was rested, while Phil Jagielka could be in line to replace the retired John Terry on a long-term basis in the national team.
Baines is the one facing the toughest challenge to establish himself under Hodgson. Jagielka’s path is a little clearer after the withdrawal of Terry, with it difficult to pinpoint an automatic choice to replace the Chelsea skipper. But Baines still has Cole in his way, and, despite the former Arsenal player facing a Football Association charge for an offensive tweet, Cole shows little sign of stepping away from international duty.
The Everton man has however started all four internationals since Euro 2012 as Cole has at times struggled with injury. Baines is also four years younger than Cole, and, while Cole has made a decent start to the Premier League season, the number of players in better form than Baines can only honestly be counted on the fingers of one hand.
His partnership with Steven Pienaar on the Everton left wing has been joyous and a large part of what makes Baines so effective, but replicating that - the product of hours of work on the training field - with a colleague in the international fold would be nigh on impossible, given the sparse time squads spend together.
Baines even without Pienaar is still clearly more than worthy of consideration for a regular place in Hodgson’s side, but he is battling one of the most established England internationals there is. Cole is two caps away from a century, level with captain Steven Gerrard, and if he was not such a controversial character would likely be a contender for the captaincy when Gerrard was unavailable. Baines is unfortunate to be playing in the same timeframe as Cole.
Jagielka, meanwhile, would appear to be in contention with former Everton teammate Joleon Lescott and Chelsea centre-back Gary Cahill for the two places at the heart of Hodgson’s defence. Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross is an outsider, new to the squad for this set of World Cup qualifiers.
The Jagielka-Lescott partnership was a popular and effective one at Goodison Park, and David Moyes has attempted to recreate its left foot-right foot balance with Sylvain Distin. Lescott and Jagielka though complimented each other in more ways than one, with Lescott the speed and Jagielka the organisation, but Cahill’s regular appearances in the Champions League could yet count in his favour in the long-run.
That two of Everton’s back four are in such prime consideration for regular berths in the England team says as much about the club as the players. Both Baines and Jagielka have been at Everton for a long time now - each man arriving in 2007 - and have gone from solid Premier League players to international calibre performers under the guidance of Moyes.
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