Phil Jagielka reveals relief at England call up for Euro 2012

 

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The Independent Online

Defender Phil Jagielka's "frustration" at missing out on England's initial 23-man squad for Euro 2012 was tempered after being called-up as a replacement for Gareth Barry.

Barry was yesterday ruled out of the tournament in Poland and Ukraine after suffering a tear to his lower abdomen in the 1-0 friendly win against Norway over the weekend, with Jagielka the man to come in.

The Everton centre-back played 90 minutes in Oslo as England kept a clean sheet and was thrilled when he was given the nod to join up with Euro 2012 squad.

"I was obviously a little bit frustrated and disappointed not to be in the original 23 but the manager was very honest and straight up with me," Jagielka said in an interview on Sky Sports News.

"He said: 'Would you come and join up and be on standby and play a part in the Norway game and if anything does happen you'll be the going to to the Euros'.

"As it is, I got to play 90 minutes for my country which was fantastic and a few days later I managed to make the 23."

Despite being a defender, Jagielka was chosen ahead of standby midfielder Jordan Henderson to come in for Barry.

Jagielka said: "I wasn't trying to think too far ahead, obviously with Gaz going, it was always going to be a lottery of which person the manager chose.

"But if you look and saw two for every position, we were one defender light and there was an extra midfielder in there anyway so thankfully for me, I got the nod."

The 29-year-old, on Saturday, rekindled his centre-half partnership with Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott, with whom he played alongside at Everton for two years.

And Jagielka is understandably hoping the pair can continue to deliver in England colours.

"Me and Jole have known each other for about 10 years now back to youth level for England," he said.

"We're a similar age, we played a lot together at Everton. He got himself a fantastic move to Man City and has won a Premier League medal this season.

"His career's gone on to fantastic things and I think I've done okay for myself.

"It's always nice to have a familiar face next to you, especially at international football because the standard's so high."

Jagielka and Lescott both featured, with the former starting the match in the unfamiliar role of full-back, when England suffered a 2-1 home defeat to France.

With the two teams set to meet on June 11 in Donetsk, Jagielka was keen to play down the relevance of the November 2010 clash.

"I'm sure their squad will be quite similar to what it was back then and ours isn't too different," he said.

"But it's going to be a slightly different atmosphere, slightly different onus on the game.

"Obviously it's a tournament game rather than the friendly, we'll need the points to top the table and go through."

When asked whether England cannot afford to begin their campaign with a loss, Jagielka added: "Yeah I suppose so.

"We'll be going out there to win the game but if we take a draw and get two good results and top the qualifying, we'll take that just as much."

Expectation from fans and media alike heading into the tournament has been somewhat muted compared to previous years and Jagielka believes the squad would benefit from a little realism this summer.

"I'm sure if we win a game we'll be favourites and if we lose a game we'll be a waste of space," Jagielka said.

"It's a hard one to call.

"It would be a better for the squad if there was a little bit less expectation on us.

"Hopefully we can go under the radar until the latter stages of the tournament and hopefully get further than we have.

"But if we're being realistic, we haven't won anything for a number of years now and maybe that's because we don't deserve to.

"So hopefully this time round we can perform a little bit better and see where it takes us."

The former Sheffield United man acknowledged the victory over Norway was slightly underwhelming but pointed out that the players are still adjusting to Hodgson's tactics.

"We've obviously not had too long with it but a 1-0 win as a defender, that's a decent start," he said.

"I'm sure we didn't play amazing but we're still getting used to the different tactics and different roles some of us will have to play but we've got to look upwards going into the tournament and hopefully we can do well with him in charge."

Jagielka refused to be drawn on the potential racist problems in Poland and Ukraine that were highlighted in BBC1's Panorama programme last night.

"It's hard to think that far ahead. I didn't think I'd be going (to the tournament) for one," he said.

"There's always positives and negatives at every tournament.

"There was supposed to be negatives about the World Cup in South Africa and as far as I know it was a success, it's just the way it goes.

"Everyone seems to want to pick up on the worst things of every country. I'm sure there'll be fantastic food, fantastic culture, fantastic people to meet along the way.

"I'm sure the squad will get amongst it and meet these sort of people.

"So without having first-hand experience myself, I don't feel I'm qualified to discuss how good or bad a country is until I've been there."

Jagielka's Everton team-mate Leighton Baines also sidestepped questions regarding the safety of players' families and fans during the tournament.

The families of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have already indicated they will not make the journey amid fears of racial abuse.

Former England skipper Sol Campbell last night warned those travelling to Poland and Ukraine faced "coming back in a coffin" during the BBC's Panorama programme, which highlighted issues in the two countries.

"I didn't see the programme but they are obviously pretty strong comments," Baines said.

"Sol must feel strongly to say that. It will be down to the individual to decide if they are going out.

"I don't know what each individual player in the squad and their family is doing.

"Hopefully we'll get into the group stages and then hopefully the families can come out then."

PA

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