by Dominic King
Liverpool v Everton
The FA Cup with Budweiser
12.30pm, Saturday 14 April 2012
Live on ESPN
Winning clubs receive £900,000 and losers £450,000 from The FA's prize fund
Click here for fixtures
Leighton Baines says he is in a privileged position as he prepares for Everton's FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley on Saturday.
But this, of course, is no ordinary Semi-Final. Since Everton set up a last-four clash against Liverpool with a resounding victory at Sunderland, there has been only one topic of conversation on Merseyside: will it be the Reds or Blues that emerge victorious under the Wembley Arch?
As a native of the city, Baines knows that better than most. His family has an even split of Evertonians and Liverpudlians, ensuring the amount of ticket requests he has received has doubled – “It was always going to be mad, wasn’t it?” – but he has not allowed himself to lose focus.
Baines, who scored against Tamworth in the Third Round, is an amiable soul, but beneath the friendly exterior there is a drive that has helped him become an England international and one of the key members of Moyes’ squad. He was turned down by both the Academies of Liverpool and Everton when he was a young boy, but refused to be beaten and ended up launching his career at Wigan Athletic.
For quality, consistency and contribution, the £6m Moyes spent on him July 2007 has been amply repaid. “I don’t suppose the occasion will sink in until after the game,” says Baines, who confesses that he was “much too young” to remember The FA Cup Finals between the sides in 1986 and 1989.
“We know it is going to be big but your job as a player is not to get caught up in it beforehand. It’s easy for me, as I just keep out of the way of my family!
“All the derbies that have been played at Wembley have gone down in history and this one will, too. It’s a privilege to be involved in it and it is hard to sum up how I feel, really. The only thing I want is for it to all go well and then to be able to reflect on it afterwards.”
The full interview with Leighton Baines appears in the official Liverpool v Everton FA Cup Semi-Final match programme, which will be available to buy from around Wembley Stadium on Saturday, or online here, priced at £5 (plus P&P).
You can also download the digital programme to your tablet device via Zinio, priced at £2.49, check out the preview version to find out more.