Following a fine domestic season at Everton, establishing an influential left-sided partnership with Pienaar, and having featured in England’s warm-up fixtures, Baines looked a certainty to make the final 23-man World Cup squad. However, Capello opted for Aston Villa’s Stephen Warnock. What did Baines do wrong?
He may have looked shaky and slightly nervous during recent run-outs, but no one particularly wrapped themselves in a blanket of triumph. Moreover, Warnock hasn’t featured in any international game for two years – his only cap coming as a substitute in a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago – and watched on whilst Baines competed.
Hence, the decision was a curious one.
It seems Baines must have played himself out of the squad; conceivably he would have been better off sat snugly on the side-line. It has also been proposed that Capello was adequately impressed with Warnock during training.
Perhaps most significantly, Baines recent comments possibly ensured he somewhat talked himself out of the squad; admitting he struggles with homesickness and has ‘always found it really hard, even when I was a teenager, being away from home’.
Now, I understand this is a little strange for a professional footballer, and I’ve heard a few chuckling comments, but he is, surprise surprise, still a real live human with real live human feelings (yep, were getting emotional here) so if this is how he feels then this is how he feels, and there is little he can do about it.
If not directly due to the actual comments, it seems the issues and atmosphere surrounding Baines in the England camp – something Capello likely sensed – are the primary reasons for his omission. Which is fair enough; whilst I appreciate him speaking openly and honestly, you do really need players to be fully focused for the (hopefully lengthy) duration. In this respect, Warnock – also a solid player of similar ability – was probably was the right choice
And, to be fair to Baines, if I had to spend over a month with that crew (Rio ‘merking’ me, etcetera etcetera) I’d probably feel a little homesick, a little nauseated and a little dismayed; give me a few days and I’d be aimlessly wandering off into the wild, collapsing into a heap, squirting a little tommy sauce on my belly and laying in wait for those furry little lion creatures to do their worse.
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