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Stephen Warnock v Leighton Baines: Who Holds the Lucky Ticket?

Leighton Baines: Unsure how to work his arms.
Leighton Baines: Unsure how to work his arms.

Let's be frank here: Leighton Baines was crap in the friendly against Mexico on Monday.

I'm not saying this as a Villa fan who wants Warnock to go to the World Cup. I'm not saying it as an Everton hater (I have no issues with Everton). I am saying it as an England supporter who watched Baines play for 90+ minutes and found absolutely no reason to cheer. He looked nervous and those nerves affected his playing, preventing him from being aggressive against the Mexican offense. He was unable to complete passes and assumed a dear in the headlights expression any time the ball came near.

To add to this miserable performance, which Baines himself said he did not enjoy, now he's told reporters that he struggles with homesickness. While I appreciate Leighton's candor, England don't need a man on their squad who feels uncomfortable away from the luxuries of home. Anyone who feels out of place with the rest of the team, who is dwelling on returning home, is not someone who is going to take to the field and play his best football.

So there should be no question that Stephen Warnock is on the plane to South Africa. Except for the fact that we haven't seen him play a game yet. His last (and only) appearance for England was in June 2008, when he came on as a substitute against Trinidad and Tobago. Many believe that Capello left Baines in for the entire Mexico game to see if he could work out his jitters. It's clear that he was unable to shake off the nervousness, so Warnock should be given the chance to start against Japan.

Except.

Except today we're faced with the news that Stephen managed to twist his ankle during training, and had to leave the pitch. Warnock finally is given the chance to prove himself and then he goes had hurts himself. He must be absolutely gutted. His time's not up, of course--he'll get a fitness test tomorrow. But if there's any evidence of injury, that ticket goes to Baines.

In terms of England, this role is more or less a moot point. Ashley Cole should be playing all minutes at left-back. But if the unthinkable happens, the Lions need someone who can step in and at least pretend to know how to play in international competition. I hope this ankle thing is nothing more than a knock, because I'd love to see if Warnock possesses a bit more grace under pressure.