Baines First Choice For Hinchcliffe
Cup-winning full-back tips successor for England starting role.
One of the best left-backs of Everton's Premier League era believes Leighton Baines should be installed as a regular starter for his country.
Andy Hinchcliffe, a key member of Joe Royle's FA Cup winning squad of 1995, earned seven caps for his country during the 90s.
Baines has already surpassed that total - with his outing against the Ukraine at Wembley last month his 11th international appearance.
But, whilst he is widely regarded as one of the best left-backs ever to pull on the Everton jersey, Baines has found his international opportunities limited because of the presence of stalwart Ashley Cole.
Baines has been tipped to feature for the Three Lions on Friday evening against San Marino at Wembley, but a place in the starting line-up on Tuesday against Poland is far from assured.
But Hinchcliffe has now joined a growing army of supporters championing Baines' cause - suggesting his form in the Premier League in the last two seasons makes him the best English left-back of the moment.
"In my opinion he should be England's first choice left-back now - on merit rather than as a result of any perceived misdemeanours by Ashley Cole," explained Hinchcliffe.
"Both are brilliant defenders, but for me Leighton Baines offers more and has done for the last two years. His delivery is outstanding, and the way the Everton team is set up takes advantage of that.
"Chelsea play a different way to Everton, which often sees Cole pushing inside and linking up with Mata and Hazard.
"But Everton encourage Baines to get wide and get crosses in which he does brilliantly."
Hinchcliffe sees similarities to the way in which Baines is encouraged to play under David Moyes and the style of play adopted by the Blues during his time at Goodison under Royle.
He continued: "It was what happened when I was at Everton and Joe Royle became manager. It made sense to him to use my delivery from the left and that's exactly what David Moyes is doing with Baines. Maybe it's an Everton thing!
"Gary Speed was really important to me. He was such a hard working player that knew if I chased forward to try and get a cross in he would be tucking in protecting me, and Baines seems to have the same trust in Steven Pienaar.
"They are the best left-flank partnership in the Premier League at present and that's why David Moyes was so keen to get him back to Goodison this summer.
"While Pienaar is clearly a very good player, it was also about getting the best out of Leighton Baines - which Everton certainly are.
"It can be difficult settling into the international set-up.
"I certainly found it tough, but Baines appears to have cracked it now and in my opinion should be England's first choice left-back."