WE’VE SCOT TO QUALIFY FOR BRAZIL
Baines sees clash as start of a big push
LEIGHTON BAINES admits tonight’s clash with Scotland marks the start of a crucial two months for Roy Hodgson’s underpressure England.
Premier League bosses have been queuing up to slam the decision to schedule the Wembley friendly just three days before the big kick-off.
But Baines insists there is no way the meeting with the Auld Enemy should be dubbed as meaningless with England’s make-or-break World Cup qualifiers looming.
The 141-year history of the fixture and intense rivalry between the two sides will give the game an extra edge.
But Everton left-back Baines is more concerned with the fact the match marks the final warm-up before Hodgson’s side face four games that could send the Three Lions to Brazil.
Baines said: “This is the start of a big season of international football.
“There’s a lot of big games now to try to qualify for the tournament.
“This is the start of the preparation for us and hopefully we’ll get some good work done, get something out of the game and that will lead us forward going into the qualifiers.”
Baines and his teammates will be desperate to impress and book their places in Hodgson’s World Cup squad.
But the tensions created by the cross-border skirmish could prove a massive distraction.
The defender added: “This is a big fixture and everyone knows the history that comes with this game.
“There will be an intense rivalry amongst the fans and on the pitch.
“Although it’s a friendly there will be two teams wanting to get one over on each other, so it will make for a good game.
“Both sides will be going into the game with a similar mentality and attitude and try to do our nations proud.”
The 28-year-old continued: “Hopefully that will add to the occasion and make a good game for everyone to enjoy.
“When you play these home nation ties, whether home or away, you do get a really good atmosphere.
“I was at the Wales game not too long ago and that was a really good atmosphere. Ireland recently brought some good fans over so we expect Scotland to do the same. It will be a good night at Wembley.”
The FA have been slammed for taking up the chance to fill the gap on the international calendar, even though the top flight has yet to get under way.
But Manchester City keeper Joe Hart is adamant the players have no problem squeezing in another fixture despite the summer lay-off.
Hart said: “Football is our lives. It is what we do. We have not just been plucked off the beach.
“You can’t afford to come back overweight otherwise you will lose your place.
“The way football is now most of the boys like to keep themselves in good shape anyway.
“It will be pretty easy to get up for this fixture.”
GINGER GENIUS: Paul Scholes
(left) was the last England player to score against Scotland