The rest of the country is just realising what Merseyside already realised for quite some time
Whether it be fashion, music or architecture, the city of Liverpool has always regarded itself ahead of the curve.
And when it comes to football, there is one aspect where the rest of country is finally beginning to catch up with what supporters in the region have known for some time.
Leighton Baines is the best left-back in the country.
It would be wrong to regard the Everton defender as the best-kept secret in the Premier League.
Former Goodison manager David Moyes long banged the drum for the player he purchased for £6million from Wigan Athletic more than six years ago.
Many an opposition has clocked on to the fact Baines is regarded as arguably Everton’s most dangerous attacking weapon. Stop Baines, they contend, and you stop the Goodison outfit.
Saying and doing, though, are two very different things.
And it has been impossible to halt Baines’s rise in prominence over the past 18 months.
Any lingering doubters were surely won over by the 28-year-old’s performances during the last week in helping England reach next summer’s World Cup finals.
In doing so, Baines has earned himself a place – injury permitting – on the plane to Brazil.
Whether it is enough to usurp Ashley Cole from the starting line-up remains to be seen, although with almost eight months until the tournament begins there is plenty of scope for the landscape to change.
The force, though, is with the Everton man.
With Cole absent with a rib injury, Baines grabbed his chance with both hands in the decisive qualifier against Poland on Tuesday, the highlight of a typically hard-working display down the left flank being the pinpoint cross that allowed Wayne Rooney to nod England into a vital lead shortly before half-time.
For years, Baines has been touted as Cole’s successor.
“I think Cole is suspended for the next qualifier so maybe Baines has a chance to be in that squad and it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise in the world to me. He is a good player, he has come on in leaps and bounds.”
Those words were from Paul Jewell back in October 2006 after his Wigan player’s tremendous strike earned England under-21s victory over Germany in a play-off encoutner.
Baines, though, has been forced to bide his time.
Having had to wait almost four years for his full international debut, he was controversially left out of Fabio Capello’s England squad for the World Cup 2010 after a post-match interview following an indifferent performance in a friendly against Mexico just weeks before the finals sparked erroneous fears over the player’s mental strength.
As Baines’s response to the omission proved, such suggestions were completely unfounded.
The left-back forced his way back into the set-up and was part of the squad at Euro 2012 but did not feature in the tournament, again finding his way blocked by Cole.
During this World Cup qualification campaign, however, Baines has become an increasing presence, starting six of the 10 games and scoring his debut England goal in Moldova last September.
With 105 caps, three World Cups and two European Championships under his belt, Cole has the experience, not least a medals collection that includes three league titles, seven FA Cups, a League Cup, a Europa League and a Champions League.
By contrast, Baines has won a Second Division (now League One) medal while his outing against Poland was only his 21st appearance of his country and eighth in a competitive fixture.
But Cole will be 33 next summer and there is no doubt he is no longer quite at the level that marked him out as the best left-back in Europe for a number of years.
The perceived wisdom has been that while Baines is more effective going forward, Cole is the better defender.
And while the Everton man has worked hard at improving this aspect of his game, Hodgson could ultimately opt for Cole’s wise head should England come up against wingers of the ilk of Cristiano Ronaldo, Arjen Robben or Jesus Navas.
Beyond dispute, though, is Baines’s importance to Everton.
No player made more key passes in the Premier League last season, while the average number per game was only surpassed by Manchester City’s David Silva.
Baines created 116 chances for his Everton team-mates – 12 more than any other Premier League player and more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues – delivered 241 crosses of which 106 found a colleague, and scored five goals.
His defensive numbers were similarly impressive, with 92 tackles and a 79.3% success rate. Baines’s height – he stands at 5ft 7ins – may be an issue to some, but Cole is hardly a giant.
Then there are his set-pieces.
Baines has rightly gained the reputation of being English football’s finest proponent of dead-ball deliveries since David Beckham, his two free-kicks in the recent win against West Ham United underlining such a repertoire.
And when not aiming for goal, Baines’s execution from set-plays has prompted panic among many an opposing defence.
Small wonder, then, that former manager Moyes made the signing of Baines a priority after moving to Manchester United.
But, like too many before him, even the Scot fell into the trap of undervaluing the left-back. Having failed with a £28million joint bid for Marouane Fellaini and Baines, United eventually had to cough up £27.5m for the latter.
To many observers, Baines is worth just as much, Everton rightly refusing to lower a weighty price tag that United refused to match.
Of course, there’s no doubt Baines is being hampered by a lack of Champions League football, his talent clearly deserving of such a stage that has helped the likes of Cole hone his profession.
But loyalty is also an attribute, and the manner in which he has carried on regardless with his boyhood club after a move to Old Trafford failed speaks volumes of Baines as a man.
Merseyside has known it for a long time. But now the Everton man is making a noise across the country.