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LEIGHTON BAINES is England's Diddy Man with a giant-sized opportunity.
Scouse comedian Ken Dodd made the mythical little people from Knotty Ash famous.
Everton star Baines plays just six miles down the road on Merseyside.
The 5ft 7in star's ability to stand tall in defence has helped him become an integral member of the England squad under Roy Hodgson.
Tomorrow the full-back is set to make his first competitive start for his country in the opening World Cup qualifier in Moldova, two-and-a-half years after his debut against Egypt.
With Ashley Cole - recognised as probably the best left-back in the world - standing in his way, it's not surprising the Everton man has had to bide his time.
But with the Chelsea star injured, Baines now has his chance on the international stage. Not that he has been gloating - because he sees eye-to-eye with Cole on just about everything - literally.
"We have a situation in the dressing room when we train," said Baines.
"There are two dressing rooms and there's a bit of a separate one for midgets. Because we all wear smaller kits, I guess it's easier for the kit man. I get on great with Ash because we rub shoulders in there.
"I end up chatting with him quite a lot and have got to know him well.
"The changing room isn't huge, so to make it more spacious there's half-a-dozen of us who change right next door."
Cole, 31, has picked up honours galore, including three Premier League titles, a record seven FA Cup winners' medals, last season's Champions League and 98 caps.
But the Baines cupboard has just an old Second Division winners' medal, gained with Wigan in 2003. And the 27-year-old, who was a summer target for Manchester United, revealed he still craves success.
He said: "You want to get to the highest level you can, and I keep doing my best in the hope that comes.
"The main thing at club level is the Champions League, which is always going to be an aim and an ambition. If you can do that it strengthens your chances at international level.
"That's one of the main ones, and obviously to win a trophy. We've had a couple of good cup runs at Everton.
"We lost in a cup final a few years ago and lost a semi-final to Liverpool, so we know it's not beyond us."
The seemingly laid-back left-back insists he knew nothing about United's interest and unlike Robin van Persie, who joined the Old Trafford giants from Arsenal, he is not the type to agitate for a move.
He added: "I've never been one to rock the boat. I appreciate the position I'm in in life and love what I do.
"At the same time, you have to have ambition because it doesn't last long and before you know it, it will be over.
"It will be nice, if selected, to play my first competitive game for England.
"It's been a while, in and around the squads, picking up appearances or caps here and there, friendlies and whatnot.
"It's been a bit of a slow burner. But I can't get too frustrated about that when the guy in front of me is such a good player.
"I have so much respect for him, for what he's doing. You just have to bide your time."
The Everton left-back will definitely be standing tall on Friday, making a first competitive start for England against Moldova in Ashley Cole's absence through injury.
It will be the 27-year-old Baines' 10th cap and reward for waiting so patiently in Cole's shadow. "It's been a bit of a slow-burner but I can't get too frustrated about that when the guy in front of me is such a good player - I have so much respect for him,'' said Baines.
He knows Cole well. "We have a situation when we train with England where the changing room isn't huge so there's a separate one for midgets. About half-a-dozen of us get put in the separate one because we all wear smaller kits so I guess it's easier for the kit-man. I get on really well with Ash because we rub shoulders in there. I end up chatting with him quite a lot."
Baines still hopes to keep the XS No 3 shirt when Cole returns from his ankle injury, seeking his 99th cap. "You have to believe,'' said Baines.
"Hopefully if I get the chance to play [in Chisinau] then I can do well enough for that to be a possibility. It's difficult because of what Ash brings to the table and for me it's just going to be one or two games really."
There has always been a whisper in England circles about whether Baines would suffer from homesickness at tournaments, stemming from a misunderstanding over a comment he made after a training camp in Austria before the 2010 World Cup.
"I didn't actually mention that [homesickness],'' Baines explained. "I mentioned I was looking forward to going back [from Austria] and that the difficult part was being away and not seeing your family for long periods. That doesn't change. I didn't go to the tournament. I don't know whether that [comment] played a part in it or not."
Even though he never got on the pitch at Euro 2012 because of Cole's enduring excellence, Baines enjoyed the tournament. "Yes, I did actually. There was a good atmosphere which was talked about quite a bit at the time but it was true. It was a good set-up where we were [in Krakow]."
Baines finds parallels between his two managers, David Moyes at Everton, and Roy Hodgson with England. "The style of management and the training bears a lot of similarities. I think they are quite close as well so maybe that's why.
"Over the years the manager at Everton has always found that level of intensity. What he'll never accept is people not giving everything they've got, not doing the work, and the manager with England is the same.
"He's always making sure we're working hard and always demands that level of work-rate whether it's a training session or a game.
"I've come from what was League One at the time [with Wigan Athletic in 2002-03] where you are used to a manager ranting and raving.
"I've moved away from that a little bit but it instils in you that you have to give everything when you get out there. That's something all good managers do, whether it's David Moyes or Jose Mourinho. They'll always demand that work-rate from the players."
Baines' form for Everton has been so consistently high in recent seasons that he was linked with Manchester United over the summer.
"People were asking me and yet I didn't know anything. It was getting mentioned that often that I was getting puzzled by it and yet I'd heard nothing. As far as I knew, there was not a great deal in it.
"I've never been one to rock the boat. I appreciate the position I'm in in life and I love what I do. At the same time you do have to have that ambition because it doesn't last long and before you know it it'll be over. The ambition for Everton is to finish as high as we can and if we can build on what we've done so far we have a chance of getting back towards European football.
"The main thing in football at club level is the Champions League which is always going to be an aim and if you can do that it strengthens your chances at international level as well.
"That's one of the main ambitions and obviously to win a trophy at some point. We lost in a cup final a few years ago [the 2009 FA Cup final to Chelsea] and lost in a semi-final to Liverpool [FA Cup lst season] so we know it's not beyond us."
Barring last weekend's defeat at West Bromwich Albion, Everton started the new term well, defeating Manchester United and Aston Villa, showing none of their frequent early-season torpor.
"Over the last few seasons, we've tended to lose one of our assets each summer, whether it be Joleon [Lescott], Mikel Arteta when he left, Steven Pienaar,'' observed Baines.
"This season we've not only managed to keep the squad together but added really good players.'
EVERTON FC defender Leighton Baines has no problem living in Ashley Cole's shadow - but he is eager to step into the England limelight himself in Moldova tomorrow.
Cole's hopes of becoming the first full-back to make a century of England appearances during this month's World Cup double-header have been dashed by the ankle injury that has prevented him making the trip to Chisinau.
It means finally, two and a half years after making his debut, Baines will get to start a competitive game for the first time.
Yet the Everton man knows his place is only temporary. If Cole recovers in time for the visit of Ukraine to Wembley on Tuesday, Baines will be straight out of the team.
It is not something Baines' competitive instincts let him willingly accept. But the 27-year-old is aware enough to realise why the natural order has Cole at the top.
"Ashley has been fantastic over the years," he said. "It has been difficult for anyone to get a look in.
"The main thing, for club and country, is his consistency.
"He is one of the first names on the team sheet because he is such a reliable performer. He is an eight out of 10 minimum every week.
"We often depend on him."
And though Baines, and Ryan Bertrand amongst others, are in direct competition, they can learn from the 31-year-old.
"He is someone, for the rest of us, for Ryan and myself and Kieran Gibbs, who is not in the squad but is a young left-back coming through, to look at and try to learn from."
Baines has been regarded as Cole's deputy for almost all those 30 months.
However he was left out of the World Cup squad by Fabio Capello amid claims comments made about suffering homesickness had been misinterpreted.
As Capello never actually asked Baines about them or offered any kind of explanation why, after starting two pre-tournament friendlies, he was axed from the provisional squad in favour of Stephen Warnock, who had not featured for a minute, the former Kirkby-born defender can offer no insight.
It would not be out of keeping for Capello though, who ran a somewhat austere ship, where communication was kept to a minimum. The Italian's successor is not like that.
"There is a shift in mentality," said Baines. "When you are around the place you are more relaxed and enjoy each other's company a bit more.
"Maybe it was a bit stiffer before that.
"It is difficult to make direct comparisons but Roy has had a positive influence.
"He is an English manager, so it is a lot easier for him to get his points across to the players.
"Now he has more time with the squad it has given him more chance to implement those ideas.
"Hopefully you will see that out on the pitch."