New England manager Roy Hodgson has named the squad that will compete in the European Championship held in Poland and the Ukraine next month. Among them is former Wigan Athletic left back Leighton Baines.
.Leighton was in his second year as a trainee at Wigan Athletic when he played his first competitive game for the club. This came against West Bromwich Albion in a second round Worthington Cup game on 2nd October 2002. He came on as a last minute substitute for Neil Roberts by which time Latics had already beaten their Premiership opponents 3-1. His first full game for the Blues was on 22nd October 2002 when Latics beat Notts County 3-2 in a Leyland Daf Vans Trophy first round game.
He played his first full game in a FA Cup first round game against Non League outfit Hereford United at Edgar Street on 16th November 2002 which Latics fortunately won 1-0 due to a last minute Scott Green goal. He made his Latics League debut on 14th December 2002 against Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park, a game which the Blues won 2-0.
By the end of December he had signed a professional contract with the club lasting for two and a half years. On 26th August 2004 he was called up for the England Under 21?s squad to face Austria and Poland In Euro qualifying games. In doing so, he became the first ever Wigan Athletic player to be called up for England at this level.
He played the full game against Austria which resulted in a 2-0 win for England and thus became the first Wigan Athletic player to play for England. He also played against Poland after impressing manager Peter Taylor and he went on to become a regular in the side. A member of the squad that won promotion to the Premiership for the first time in the club’s history, he had made a total of 70+3 League appearances and scored 1 League goal by the end of season 2004/05.
Leighton made 34+2 Premiership appearances during the following season and played for Latics in their first major Cup Final when the Blues were beaten by Manchester United 4-0 at the Millennium Stadium. As at the end of season 2005/06 he had made 104+5 league appearances and scored once. On Friday 6th October 2006 he scored his first England goal, a 30 yard stunner that won the game for England Under 21?s against their German counterparts.
Days later he was part of the team that beat Germany 2-0 in Leverskerken to enable England to compete in the Euro Under 21?s Championship in Holland in 2008. He completed his second Premiership season by winning the Player of the Year Award.
He moved to Everton on 6th August 2007 for a fee of £5.000.000 which was a club record for a ‘home grown’ player. In total he played 140+5 league games (70+2 in the Premiership) for Latics, scoring four league goals (3 in the Premiership) in the process.
In May 2009 he reached the FA Cup Final with the Toffees, but once again, finished on the losing side in a major cup final when Chelsea defeated Everton 2-1 at Wembley. As predicted by many during his time at the JJB Stadium he made his full England debut on 3rd March 2010 against Egypt at Wembley.
His Everton Career so far consists of 147+14 Premier League appearances during which he has netted on eleven occasion. His excellent form has reportedly caught the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson and a successful European campaign may see Leighton finally play for one of the ‘elite’ teams in England.
Everybody at TNS wishes Leighton all the very best luck available and hope he returns to Merseyside with a winners medal around his neck!
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