“We’ve got a saga now,” said Phil Jagielka. The Everton captain is discussing the pressure that has been building around his young central- defensive partner ever since Jose Mourinho announced John Stones’s future was at Stamford Bridge.
What has angered Jagielka is that the season could be a month old before that future is settled.
“The way the transfer window works means we will have played four games by the time it closes. I cannot get my head round why it works the way it does,” he said. “The window should shut in the first week of August. If there are any problems, deal with it after Christmas.
“It leads to uncertainty. It unsettles people. We’ve got a saga now and it’s difficult. We should get rid of the circus and make sure all the business is done before the start of the season so the entertainment comes from the football.”
Jagielka has seen the circus come to Everton before, and once it came very near. In the summer of 2011, Arsenal saw him as the ideal partner for Thomas Vermaelen. Everton would not sell.
“But the press and social media wasn’t as big as it is now, so I got away with it,” Jagielka said.
Two years before, it had been even messier. Everton have a good record against Manchester City and it may not be a coincidence that it accelerated in 2009, the year they lost Joleon Lescott to the money of Abu Dhabi.
Everton’s then manager, David Moyes, was angered that Mark Hughes, his counterpart at City, did not call him once to discuss the move. Lescott submitted a transfer request and was dropped for the opening game of the season at Goodison – which Everton lost 6-1 to Arsenal. Lescott departed for an inflated £24 million and Moyes won five of his next six matches against City.
“This is the same thing that happened to Joleon, although he was a little bit older,” said Jagielka. “He was going to a club that had spent a lot of money and was looking to win the title – and he has got trophies for doing so. No one I’ve known has desperately wanted to leave Everton, although there are certain clubs that can offer more opportunities.
“Potentially, John is as good as I’ve seen. His temperament is right, his ability’s right, he’s got great physical attributes. I wouldn’t be surprised if he became England’s centre-half for the next 10 or 12 years. Injuries can happen, form can change, confidence can be lost, but he’s on the right road. I think he’s slightly surprised how highly people rate him.”
Centre-backs tend to be close. One covers for the other, and if one fails, they both do. “We don’t get to score the last-minute winner and have everyone singing our name,” said Jagielka, who did score a thunderous last-minute equaliser at Anfield in the Merseyside derby. “We are the ones who have to try to go unnoticed. If someone says we have done nothing wrong, then we’re happy.”
Last Sunday at the Etihad Stadium, John Terry did not go unnoticed. Unable to cope with Sergio Aguero, the 34-year-old found himself substituted by Mourinho for the first time in his career.
“It’s not a coincidence that the people around Aguero, the likes of David Silva and Yaya Touré, have started the season well,” said Jagielka. “They make a big difference to his game, allow him more freedom. He doesn’t shirk a challenge but he doesn’t look for confrontation, he likes to glide away from you then, bang, before you know it he’s in the box.”
Aguero’s strength and speed were key to his opener against Chelsea, the way he spun past Gary Cahill and held off Nemanja Matic. “His thighs are massive for his size,” said Jagielka. “He has great balance, can turn on a sixpence and, most importantly, he backs himself. Ability and confidence are a dangerous concoction.”
The concoction Everton served up last season was a strange brew. It began with a 4-1 Europa League thrashing of Wolfsburg, who would finish second in the Bundesliga. But by December it appeared that a club who have played more top-flight football than any other might be relegated. There was then a recovery of sorts, which included a 3-0 win over Manchester United.
Before last Saturday’s 3-0 win at Southampton, a plane flew over St Mary’s trailing a banner demanding the resignation of Everton’s chairman, Bill Kenwright. “I understand the fans are desperate for us to do well,” said Jagielka. “I understand the excitement of the transfer window. It is easy to point the finger at the person at the top, who is Bill at the moment, but would the fans be happy with him selling the young lads and turning us into a club that brings great people in and then sells them? Then there is no continuity and no familyness about us.”Reuse content