Baines eager to hit the ground running for Everton

The left-back who spent part of his summer at Euro 2012 with England has stated that he has kept fit during the off-season so he can kick-start the new season in style
Everton defender Leighton Baines says he has carried on working on his fitness throughout the summer in order to hit the ground running in the new Premier League season.

The left-back has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United in the transfer window, and after being one of the players that went unused at Euro 2012 with England, he admits that he returned to the gym sooner than he normally would have done.

"When your football has continued on past the end of the season, it's important that you get at least three or four weeks where you can rest and switch off, both mentally and phyiscally; then you come back ready to go," Baines told the club's official website.

"I only took a week off to be honest. I figured it wouldn't be that long before I was back so I might as well stay in decent shape.

"You do that in the hope of avoiding injury more than anything. You get put through your paces when you come back in pre-season and there's a lot of stress put on your body. If you let yourself go too far, that's where you're going to get niggles and start missing important sessions.

"If you keep yourself up to scratch physically, you can get the full benefit when you start the season."

Despite only playing a small part of England's friendlies in the build-up to the competition in Poland and Ukraine, and no-part in the action, Baines says there was lots of physical work to be done.

He added: "Once the games started, the ones that played didn't train. But the rest of the squad - you sit around and do all the eating before the game and then you haven't played, so you have to work it off and then continue training to keep your levels up.

"Jags [Phil Jagielka] is a good running partner for me. We both have slightly different strengths when it comes to types of running, so there'll be times when I pull him along a bit and others where I'm trying to hang onto him.

"It's a good partnership for both of us."