Baines on song
Leighton Baines has been working in perfect harmony with Everton manager Roberto Martinez, reports Sky Sports News' Vinny O'Connor with an exclusive interview...
By Vinny O'Connor
Last Updated: 18/03/14 11:22pm
He is trying to teach himself; I am taking lessons; he may take the lesson route. Not quite Arctic Monkeys standard yet then (they are still his favourite band).
Music is his main escape from football and, for him, infinitely easier to talk about than the widely held belief that he is now regarded as the best left-back in the country.
"I always find it difficult when you try and talk about yourself in that way," he explains. "But I think I am happy with the way things are going for me and I am at a level I am pretty happy with, so I will continue to try and work hard and enjoy myself."
To be fair, even when Manchester United came in for him last summer and talk of a reunion with David Moyes continued beyond that particular transfer window, Baines never gave the impression he was doing anything other than enjoying his football; his spectacular free-kick double at West Ham United in September a case in point. In January, Baines then committed his future to Everton beyond his 33rd birthday, an endorsement of life under a new manager and reward for Roberto Martinez - who never panicked at the prospect of losing one of his club's key performers early in his reign.
"He (Martinez) gave me time," says Baines. "Obviously we wanted to get it done but he gave me the time and space and that enabled me to get to work with him and we got it done quite quickly once we started talking. It was great to be able to draw a line under any uncertainty."
Baines has clearly been impressed with what Martinez has brought to Everton. He admits the new playing style is still a work in progress but has no doubt it is the route to go down if they are to realise their ambition of UEFA Champions League football.
"That is the idea behind it," he says. "It is not limited, there is not only so far you can go with it. This is the type of football that would ideally be suited to European competition. We are working on it everyday now and everyone is getting more comfortable and improving."
There was definitely a verve about training, it was very vocal, the ball zipping around; short, sharp passes, players comfortable on the ball and working on dominating possession.
"As a footballer you are always open to challenges and I think it obviously has provided that for a lot of us," says Baines. "The different things that we are asked to do and the different way in which we work, that is part of the challenge that we have all embraced. And it is the type of football that, if you can improve and do it well, then other teams can really struggle to cope with it."
To supplement that, Baines wants to see the manager given money to spend in the summer. And that is not just with a view to signing Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry on permanent deals, although that would be a start. Should Everton qualify for the Europa League then Roberto Martinez will need a squad capable of resisting any negative impact the extra games could have on Everton's domestic form.