Sunday 26 January 2020

World Cup demons haunting proud Jagielka

Everton captain Phil Jagielka insists that the Merseysiders will be competitive again this season.
Everton captain Phil Jagielka insists that the Merseysiders will be competitive again this season.

Henry Winter

PHIL JAGIELKA cannot wait for 3pm today, for putting on his club shirt and starting a new Premier League season.

It is partly excitement about Everton's prospects but also therapy to help overcome the horrors of the summer with England.

"The more you sit down in the dark and things play over in your mind, the worse it gets," the England centre-half reflected on a disastrous World Cup.

As the season opens, the spotlight will frequently focus on those who failed in Brazil.

England's players have yet to open up about the nightmare at the World Cup but Jagielka was willing, breaking off from coaching schoolchildren at a Premier League event in London to talk.

Jagielka, 31, returned from Rio, spending a few days in England before heading off on holiday.

"It was difficult watching the World Cup at home. We went away to Turkey with the family and there was not much TV on.

"You try to forget about it, get run ragged by the kids, get thrown in the pool. It's the best medicine to be perfectly honest.

"I didn't want to be in Turkey that early in the summer.

"Most of the lads it will affect in some way. I don't think you can just flick a switch and say: 'OK that's the World Cup done, go and put my swimming trunks on and forget about it.' For me it was [therapeutic] to keep myself busy.

"It is probably just as hard work running around after the kids as it is training. It was the perfect remedy to not dwell on it.''

But Jagielka does dwell on it. "It was mad. Anticlimax would probably be an understatement. It is frustrating not to have been able to stay out longer.

"I'd have preferred for us to have played worse, got more points and snuck through. It is easy for people to say 'you don't care' and you just get on with it but the camaraderie we had was great.

"Other than the results it was a great time. Even going to Portugal and Miami [to prepare] it was great and everything was looking so positive.''

So what went wrong? "The easiest thing to say would be luck. If you look at the goals: the Italy goal [Mario Balotelli's winning header], the guy [Antonio Candreva] goes on his left foot and pulls of the best cross he has. Obviously I'm going to say the Edinson Cavani pass over my head to Luis Suárez: little things like that didn't seem to go our way.

"One of the frustrating things watching games is you see someone go clean through and shank it wide. All you can think to yourself - and I know it's negative - is that if that was against us it flies in the top corner. That'd be too simple.

"The goals scored against us were good goals. There was a little bit of luck with the last one [when Suárez scored after a Steven Gerrard mistake].



"The easiest way for me to get on with it is to say, 'It wasn't meant to be'. Hopefully I'll get an opportunity to go to another major tournament and put it right.

"Stevie has retired. You can see why, he didn't see himself staying for a few more years and he didn't want to be around just for the qualifying campaign.

"Everyone else is desperate to make up for it or stake a claim. If you look at the England team now there must be at least eight places up for grabs so I'm desperate to stay in there. You'd be daft not to want to be part of this country's history when it comes to playing football."

England host Norway before an array of empty seats at Wembley on September 3.

"I don't have a clue about ticket sales,'' said Jagielka, before being informed that only 10,000 have been sold so far. "Obviously, that's not going to look good at Wembley with 80,000 spare. There's still time left to sell tickets.

"The way the press and the fans were after the disappointment was fantastic. The positivity about the young talent on display and the young talent we hope will take us forward got us through the disappointment.

"Hopefully the fans will stick with us as they have done in the past when we have not made a European Championship [in 2008]. Hopefully if we can cut out errors and put the ball away we can have a positive future.''

As Everton captain, Jagielka has assisted the development of England's John Stones and Ross Barkley.

"There's plenty of talent around. There are a lot from late teens to early twenties, which bodes well.

"Stonesy is naturally composed, naturally not that flustered. You look at when Rio Ferdinand started playing: no one got past him, great in one-v-ones, great in the air.

"You look at Stonesy and his characteristics, especially with the way the manager [Roberto Martínez] wants us to play; he just fits right in. He's a really nice lad, which makes a big difference. He doesn't let it get to his head. He's always wanting to learn.

"I'll be keeping a close eye on Stonesy, being captain and playing the same position. I'll try to help him out as much as I can. It might be difficult initially if he doesn't start the season but I'm sure he will get plenty of game time and hopefully he'll progress."

Barkley's promise also excited Jagielka. "Definitely, we try to push him as much as we can. He needs to add more goals to his game to make that step that everyone expects him to naturally make.

"That's what we will be on at him about this season. If he's going to play in that role as the advanced midfielder he'll have to chip in with more goals. He scored a couple of decent ones towards the end of the season.''

Barkley, 20, has signed a new contract while Romelu Lukaku, 21, has signed a permanent deal after his successful loan season. "It's frightening when you look at them from afar,'' said Jagielka.


"You wouldn't expect them to be as young as they are with the physical attributes they've both got. They're great footballers as well.

"If you look at the squad we are assembling and the young lads we've got: James McCarthy is 23, Seamus [Coleman] is 25 and has signed a new deal.

"I'm sure the manager is looking to build around those for the future. It was massive for Ross to sign, it was a statement we are doing things right and he was happy to stay."

Even with the £28m Lukaku deal, Everton have invested less than their rivals pursuing a Champions League place.

"You can probably say that pretty much every season we play,'' shrugged Jagielka.

"Our investment never seems to quite stack up against the teams we are competing with for the top four.

"We've put a massive amount of money - for us - into signing players, or signing a player, especially with Rom.

"We are not going to be able to spend £70m or £80m like the teams around us jostling for the positions.

"The manager is happy with the players he gets and he knows what he has got to work with. We've got to put our trust in him.

"When your near-neighbours sell someone [Suárez] for £75 million, the bank balance is always going to look quite healthy.

"You can see why they've been able to go out and buy five, six players with that money. Man U didn't have the season they would have wanted so they've spent a little bit again. You wouldn't expect them to finish as low as last year.

"We didn't spend a fantastic amount last season. I remember reading some pundits expecting us to finish in the bottom half.

"We were very proud of what we did [fifth]. We would like to have picked up some more points, maybe the size of the squad and the strength in depth cost us in the end. But I couldn't be any prouder of the lads and what we did last season.''

Everton's captain just has to get over England's summer. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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