Everton's Leighton Baines turned to his family in dark times
Published 00:00 09/05/09 By By David Maddock
There is a refreshing honesty about Leighton Baines, that makes him instantly endearing.
Take for instance, his insights into the dark times that consumed him at Everton, when what seemed like a season ticket for the bench threatened his Goodison career.
The closeness of his family helped get him through it and then with a smile he rather bravely - for a man who spends his professional life in a macho dressing room - admits that he is a bit of a mummy's boy really!
The left-back arrived on Merseyside with a big reputation earned at Wigan, only to be frustrated first by injury, and then Joleon Lescott's excellence in that position.
By Christmas of this season, it seemed that he was destined to never fulfil the predictions made for him, and with that trademark honesty he admits to having been wracked with doubt about himself and his future.
"There were times when it didn't look good for me and I was beginning to think my career at Everton might be in a bit of trouble," he explained.
"When I first came and was playing a few games, I thought I did well. But then I was left out and was struggling to understand why.
"I'd play a few and do well, but then was out again and wondering what was happening. I couldn't get my head round it because although I'd done well, it still wasn't enough. Even now, I look back and don't think I'm doing anything different to the few games I had before. I'm just doing it regularly and getting a run."
That's where his family - and especially mum Colette - came in. Baines is nothing if not grounded, a working-class boy from the Kirkby area of Liverpool who is the furthest from the footballer stereotype you can imagine.
"By keeping his feet on the ground, he got through a tough time.
"I'm a bit of a mummy's boy, I have to admit, and she only lives down the road. I still spend a lot of time back there and even stay over the odd night," he said.
"I really get looked after, my tea cooked and everything. My wife's from the same area too so she'll stay at her folks and I'll be at mine, but there's no doubt that all helped me."
Baines was speaking at the launch of the Everton Foundation, the club's charitable arm, which delivers a range of programmes to promote social inclusion, well-being and fitness among youngsters, disabled children and adults.