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Everton 2013/14 Season Review - Phil Jagielka

A disappointing World Cup with England should not disguise what was another consistent season in a blue shirt for Phil Jagielka.

Michael Steele

With Phil Neville’s retirement last summer Jagielka became the new official club captain, adding to the ‘new era’ feel about Goodison Park with Roberto Martinez also stepping into David Moyes’ shoes on the eve of the 2014/14 season.

There were concerns that Wigan Athletic’s notoriously leaky defence would be replicated on Merseyside, with Martinez’s desire to have his players pass it out from the back also dragging the likes of Jagielka out of their comfort zones.

It cannot be denied that distribution is not Jags’ strong point, but he quickly adapted to the new manager’s methods while also maintaining the defensive stability that formed the bedrock of David Moyes’ reign.

With England he had firmly established himself as first-choice centre-back alongside Chelsea’s Gary Cahill and the pair helped Roy Hodgson’s men secure qualification for the World Cup with wins over Montenegro and Poland in October.

Back at club level his partnership with the ever-green Sylvain Distin was once again crucial, with the Frenchman complimenting Jagielka’s game perfectly.  Despite being four years his senior Distin’s pace and acceleration over five yards made up for Jagielka’s perceived lack of pace, but he in turn made up for in his anticipation and positioning.

The pair were ever-present in the Premier League until Christmas, before both picked up injuries that allowed John Stones to give us all a glimpse of his enormous potential.

Jagielka returned to the side at the start of the year but the second half of the season was wrecked by a hamstring injury that proved much more serious than first thought.

Roberto Martinez had held out some hope he could play against Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter-final at the start of March but the 32-year-old would not return until the start of May, giving him two Premier League games to prove his fitness ahead of the World Cup.

Still he played his part in a defence that had the third best defensive record in the division, with just 39 goals conceded.

He then played in two of England’s World Cup warm-up matches, scoring in the 3-0 Wembley victory over Peru, and took his place alongside Cahill in Brazil.

Sadly for Jagielka the World Cup proved to be a nightmare. Successive defeats to Italy and Uruguay meant their goalless draw with Costa Rica in their final group game – for which Jagielka was dropped - was meaningless, sending the Three Lions home bottom of Group D.

As the post-mortems gathered pace, England’s defence came in for the bulk of the criticism, with the late winners for both Italy and Uruguay seen as avoidable.

It seems harsh to single out Jagielka in what was a pretty rotten World Cup for the Three Lions all round. He did lose Luis Suarez for Uruguay's opening goal but it was an outstanding pass from Edinson Cavani that took him out of the game. For Suarez's winner, Steven Gerrard's misjudged back header and Cahill's lack of covering meant they were both equally culpable.

But with the 2016 European Championships now the next big target, there is talk that the Everton man may well be jettisoned to make way for the new generation.

One of those new youngsters is, ironically, John Stones, a player who has no doubt benefited from playing alongside Jagielka at club level.

Even if he is dropped from the England side there is no talk of Jagielka’s Everton place being under threat. He is a key cog in the royal blue machine and one that still has a few good years ahead of him yet.

However, the emergence of Stones means a long-term succession plan – with both Jagielka and Distin entering the twilight of their careers – should begin in earnest.