Phil Jagielka was trending after Everton’s first game of the season against Wolverhampton but for all the wrong reasons. A week shy of his 36th birthday, Phil had a heavy first touch but tried his hardest to keep Diogo Jota from scoring, resulting in a straight red card, the first of his career. The biggest story of the first week back for the Premier League was whether or not Jags’ tackle was deserving of a red card.
Old-school folks have deemed the call ‘an end to football’, stating that ‘in their day’ it wouldn’t have even been a yellow card whereas others are arguing that the tackle could’ve been an ‘ankle-breaker’.
The debate can go on and on regarding the referee’s decision but the most surprising argument seen so far is that it was Jagielka’s last game in an Everton shirt. Some say it’s time he hung up his boots and point to the tackle on Jota as an indication of his decline. But people have short memories, especially when it comes to defenders. Just three years ago, Jags won Player of the Season, Player’s Player of the Season, and Goal of the Season and was a bright spot in a not-so-great season. And who can forget that Derby goal at the Kop end?
Sure, the new center back signings deserve their chance and Jags himself would want the best man for the job to play, but give respect where respect is due. He was in this situation last season under Ronald Koeman, when Ramiro Funes Mori was starting, but then he got back into the starting eleven and went on a hot streak, scoring goals and doing cartwheels. He will gladly sub on whenever he is needed and could possibly play in Cup games, giving other players a rest, but is suspended until September 1st for now.
No matter what, Phil will play an important role as a veteran in the locker room. He seems to relish mentoring younger players and pushed Michael Keane to be more vocal, something that he did during the rest of the game against Wolves after Jags was sent off.
Jagielka is not yet a relic but he is of another time. He doesn’t have a neck tattoo, is endearingly clueless and dad-like on social media and finds Pad Thai to be too spicy.
In his latest Instagram post, he gave props to his teammates and celebrated the debut of Richarlison before stating his case that he had made an “honest strong tackle” while also admitting that he did make contact with Jota. There were no less than two blue hearts in the post, which is one more than he usually includes in his infrequent social media updates.
His loyalty to Everton football club over the past eleven years has been undeniable, never leaving in search for more minutes at a smaller club or taking even the slightest bit of interest in going to the MLS. You can’t say he doesn’t care and you can’t say he doesn’t try his hardest.
Don’t count Phil Jagielka out just yet. He’s got heart. A blue one.