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Lewis Baines on international football and time with England C Team

Lewis Baines is used to big occasions in non-league, but the defender spoke exclusively to Non League Daily about his time as an international with the England C Team. 

By Richard Scott 

Credit: David Loveday

Baines proud to pull on shirt for Three Lions

It's not every day a player from Chorley FC gets called up for international honours.

Players have gone on to play for their national side after leaving Victory Park - Paul Mariner , Steve Jones and Andy Russell to name three. Despite these talented footballers learning their trade at Chorley, not many get called up to play for their country while playing for the Lancashire club.

However, that changed last week when defender Lewis Baines, who has played more than 100 times for the magpies, got called up to play for the England C team against Wales C at Caernarfon Town's Oval ground.

The former Stockport County and Fleetwood Town defender explained how he got a late call up to the side.

He told Non League Daily: "On Sunday night, I got a late call at about 9 O'clock, it was completely unexpected.

"I was on the backup list, and someone got injured then Paul Fairclough (England C team manager) said I was his next pick, so it was brilliant.

"I got the call at 9 o’clock and I had to be there in Wales on Monday at noon. So I had to sort myself out, speak to work and get the week off.

"It was brilliant to get the call-up. I thought someone was taking the mick at first."

Baines was the only player in the team who wasn't playing National League football. Despite the likes of Paul Mullin pulling out of the squad, there were some big National League players in the 16 man squad. Players like Ben Wynter, Ash Palmer, Ryan Boot and Michael Cheek were all selected by Fairclough and his management staff.

Credit: David Loveday

Despite being alongside some big-name players, it didn't faze Baines.

He said: "It wasn't daunting or anything like that, as I've played at that level, played higher than that level.

"It's all similar kinds of players. The only difference is the wages, pitches and grounds. I fitted in straight away and roomed with Callum Roberts, who was good and welcomed me with open arms.

"The good thing about it was no one knew each other. There were a couple of players who came from the same team. Also, it was everyone's first time apart from goalkeeper Scott Loach.

"I enjoyed going, it was something different, and I wouldn't turn it down if offered again.

"You are well looked after, You want anything- drink, food, a rub down, see the physio,  or you want to chat to someone, it's all there.

"You get looked after. All your kit is all set out. The nutrition is down to a tee. You're doing pee tests, everything like that.

Credit: David Loveday

"We were all very well looked after, ensuring that we were ready for the game. You get put through your paces, see the physios, foam rolling sessions, and pool sessions.

"To be fair, I never eaten more in my life than when I was there. We had breakfast, dinner, pre-match, and post-match meals. We ate four times in one day. It was a long day, but I will never forget it."

In the game, England was stunned by the Red Dragons, who won 4-0 as Will Evans and Aeron Edwards helped to two goals each in the first half.

However, for Baines, his big moment came with 20 minutes to go when he replaced Will Wright at the heart of the defence, and he managed to keep the rampant Dragons out.

Baines said: "I didn't expect to start the game being a late call-up, but the gaffer said some nice things, including I've given him a dilemma for the future, and I will be on the radar.

"The team didn't have a great start, with three scruffy goals have gone in the first 25 minutes. Then the second half, I thought we dealt with it well. The conditions didn't help, and their fans were so on it, and Wales hates England, don't they.

Credit: Stefan Willoughby

"When I did come on, Paul Fairclough said to me: 'go on and steady the ship, play with freedom and do what you do.'  I came on and won my first header and was confident.

"I played a good few passes and didn't give the ball away. I came on made sure I did well and made an impression and, he said: 'I did what he asked me to do and steady the ship and that he was happy with me.' It was good."

Summing up the experience, Baines said: "It's a surreal feeling. The majority of us in our lifetime would have to buy an England shirt.

"But to be given your own, which is yours. To play on the television in front of friends and family, my family was there, it's incredible.

"I know it was only the England C team, but it will go down as an international cap, and how many people can say they've played for England at any level? So I will take it and run with it, to be honest."

Baines is now hoping to use the experience to push Chorley back towards the National League.

Meanwhile, his club manager Jamie Vermiglio spoke of his pride in seeing one of his stalwarts called up for the C team.

It's been an exciting few seasons for the Chorley fans, and seeing one of their own called up for the England C team helps add to the feel good factor around Victory Park.

Vermiglio said: "It's great for us. We've got some good footballers, and you could argue four or five of them could step up into that sort of level. We have got a few lads I believe that could play in the Football League and a few that we have lost who would be able to do that as well.

"Andy Halls is ex England C, and Scott (Leather) has played in the Championship.

"It's good for the club. We're going in the right direction. We have had a successful five or six seasons, probably even more than that.

Credit: Stefan Willoughby

"We got a promotion to the National League, and we had the FA Cup run. So there is a lot of positivity about the place and being in the playoffs now.

"It's only good for the club when you see one of your players stepping out with an England kit on."

As found out last season during the Magpie's stunning run to the 4th round of the Emirates FA Cup that Jamie is a headteacher at a school in Warrington, Cheshire.

It meant he couldn't get over to Wales to watch his player star for England, but he ensured he watched the game on Welsh TV channel S4C. He also made sure that Baines had a copy of his performance.

 "I didn't get down to the game, but I watched it on the television. I was paying a little bit of attention to it, even more so when Baines came on in the 70th minute," said Vermiglio.

"I videoed it for him and sent it over. Just in case, no one did that for him because it's such a milestone. I think people, these days, get a little bit bogged down and a bit embarrassed at these little accolades you get.

"But actually, it's a momentous occasion for him and one he should celebrate and be proud of and not be embarrassed about being proud of it."

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