One to Watch - Leighton Baines
Name: Leighton Baines
Date of Birth: 11/12/1984
Former Clubs: Wigan
League Appearances (Goals): 313 (17)
International Appearances (Goals): 12 (1)
Stat of the Day: Leighton Baines has created the most scoring chances for team-mates, 28 in total, so far during the 2012/2013 season.
Player Profile: No one needs to tell QPR fans strengthening a largely mediocre defence was the main priority over the summer, and while the club attempted to bring in defenders who would supposedly add an attacking dimension to the team, they clearly forgot to check whether the prerequisite of defending was actually listed on their CV`s . How lucky it is for Everton then, that they have a left-back who can do both - extremely well. Leighton Baines has, year after year, produced performances most managers would commit crimes to have. Add to that an exemplary fitness history, an assist record most attacking midfielders would be proud of and a consistency that has put him in serious contention to ousting Ashley Cole from the left-back spot for England, and you have a full-back who quite rightly deserves to be linked with the likes of Manchester United. I`m sure Everton were quite glad United swooped for Alexander Buttner over the summer, rather than having to admit defeat in attempting to keep another one of their star players.
I`d love to be able to watch QPR players stand over a dead ball situation wondering how close we`d come to scoring. Instead, I find myself wondering whether it will clear the first man at a corner or whether it will hit the wall or sail over the bar from a free kick. Should Leighton Baines ever find himself at Loftus Road, I`m sure we could soon kick his superb dead ball ability right out of him, but for now we must hold our breath every time QPR concede a corner or free kick in a dangerous part of the pitch as Baines stands over the ball. Mark Hughes seems to have given up playing with any sort of width this season, seemingly committing suicide by playing Park and Wright-Phillips on the wings from the outset of games. It may be wise to change this ridiculous resemblance of any sort of tactical thinking, and play somebody who may actually pose a threat to Baines, and his partner in crime Steven Pienaar. Take the prominent and effective left side of Everton`s team lightly, and Hughes may face an anxious twenty four hours looking at his phone.
Leighton Baines began his career as a left-winger at the Liverpool Centre of Excellence as a boyhood Liverpool fan, but eventually signed his first professional contract at Wigan Athletic. He made his first team debut in 2002 and was a member of the Wigan team that got promoted to League One in 2003. He was a prominent figure in Wigan`s side that got promoted to the Premier League; however he made no secret of his worry about whether he could cut it in England`s top division.
Having been linked with a succession of big clubs, and a reported rejected move to Sunderland, Baines signed for Everton for a fee of £6 million in 2007. He had made 145 league appearances for Wigan, scoring four goals and would soon continue his impressive form at The Toffees. His initial Everton career started slowly as the defensive partnerships of Jagielka, Yobo and Lescott kept Baines at bay from a first team spot. The 2008/2009 saw Baines finally cement his place in the starting line up and he has not looked back since. He has won numerous Clubs` and Players` Player of the Season awards, notching up an impressive 32 assists and scoring 13 goals in his time at Goodison Park. Still only 27, Baines seems to be entering the best part of his career, which is frightening for a player who has been so prominent over the years in the world`s best league.
Follow me on twitter @harrod11