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Is it time to take Jagielka out of the firing line?

Everton must avoid repeat of what happened to Tim Howard

Everton v Swansea City - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

"Sometimes you get a feeling in your mind that you just can't go again and that time had come for me.

"In the previous two seasons I had played 25-30 games and there was always a period where I felt I was contributing.

"Once you have lost that, you don't want to be a passenger."

Those are the words of Gary Neville, who retired midway through the 2010-11 season after realising he could no longer compete at the highest level.

Neville had been thinking about calling it a day for some time but was persuaded to stay on for another season by Sir Alex Ferguson during the summer of 2010.

However, after a poor first half performance against West Brom on New Year’s Day Neville realised it was time to call it a day.

It was a shock decision to the outside world, but perhaps not a surprise to those who knew Neville.

We have since seen in his new role as a TV pundit that the former England defender is a straight talker and will not skirt around difficult or sensitive issues.

It highlights just how quickly a player can suddenly decline - or their “legs go”, to borrow a phrase from the terraces.

Sometimes the player realises himself, like Neville. But on most occasions it is the responsibility of the manager to recognise a player is in decline and manage him accordingly.

Football is a short yet lucrative profession and players want it to last as long as possible.

Which brings me onto the subject of Phil Jagielka.

Now I’m not suggesting Jagielka hangs up his boots mid-season like Neville did. But his place in the Everton first-team does need to be put under scrutiny.

Jagielka has turned in some pretty poor performances in recent weeks, most notably at Burnley and last weekend against Swansea.

He has also conceded three penalties in that time, a sure-fire signal that elusive “extra yard of pace” has been lost or his judgement is not what it was once.

It may well be that the England defender is in a poor run of form – it happens to every player.

But at 34 there is also a compelling argument that he is no longer good enough to compete in the Premier League.

Jagielka’s decline has certainly not gone unnoticed amongst the supporters, who subjected him to some severe criticism and even mockery on social media after the Swansea game on Saturday.

Jagielka does not deserve to become a figure of fun after nearly 10 years of loyal service to the club.

But that is where Ronald Koeman needs to be decisive.

We saw a similar situation with Tim Howard last season. The American was in obvious decline but Roberto Martinez, out of admirable loyalty, stuck by him in the hope he could rediscover his form.

He couldn’t, and his relationship with the supporters was nearly tarnished as a result.

Therefore Koeman may well be best advised to take Jagielka out of the firing line for a few weeks.

The Dutchman has already spoken of the need to protect and manage Jagielka’s fitness through busy periods. It may well be he needs time out to mentally refresh himself too.

The predicament Koeman finds himself in though is the fact Everton’s upcoming fixtures are so imposing.

Everton need somebody of Jagielka’s experience for game against the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool.

Jagielka demonstrated that just eight months ago when, despite suffering from a hamstring injury, he put in a heroic performance against Man United the FA Cup semi-final.

But, as Gary Neville found, things can change quickly and the emotion of past achievements need to be put to one side when dealing with the here and now.

Koeman has a big decision to make over the future of his skipper in the coming weeks.