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A tribute to Phil Jagielka

By Neil Steele :  26/04/2009 :  Comments (28) :
They say God moves in mysterious ways, don't they... well, if he really does exist then yesterday's events confirm beyond all doubt that the statement is true.

Not content with robbing us of the services of our number 1 forward player, he/she/they ? whoever the forces that repeatedly conspire against us are ? decided that a snapping of Mikel Arteta's cruciate would be a good test of our faith!!

As we do as Evertonians, with our much-tested unbreakable spirit, we overcame that setback. "Is that all you've got?" came back the bullish response from our manager, players and fans alike. Nothing can derail the much-vaunted team-spirit and belief that David Moyes has managed to instill at the club; whatever the world throws at us, we seem to just bounce back and face our challenges head on.

Everyone has their limits though, don't they?? Every man and machine has it's breaking point and, in this latest setback, I think mine has just bean reached. The injury to the majestic Phil Jagielka yesterday just makes me want to cry and give up.

Yesterday was my birthday, shared with David Moyes (ironically considering some of the criticism I have dished out on him in the past); that being the case I was fairly sure from early morning that the result wouldn't go for us. I could accept that though, I was pre-prepared, and what did it matter anyway??? After all, we had already re-qualified for the revamped Uefa Cup barring a ridiculously unlikely set of circumstances and a trip back to Wembley for the Cup Final was on the horizon. So what if you beat us, you can't bring me down!!

How wrong I was though.

In Phil Jagielka, David Moyes bought a player who is not only, in my opinion, the finest central defender in the world today but a fantastic person, a gentleman footballer and a role model to any aspiring young players.

I made my views known on other sites in the summer that I believed the Anglo-Polish maestro was rapidly approaching the summit of his profession in his position; after the initial laughter subsided and as the season has progressed, my views have become far more credible, if not 100% agreeable. His performances have done all the talking that needs doing; I have been sitting back feeling a smug satisfaction, thinking "I told you so".

Not only is Jags a defender of indisputable world class talent, he is a player who makes you proud to follow Everton Football Club. He is a shining beacon for all that is still good about the game of football in an era of accepted 'cheating' and he is a person who it is a pleasure to support.

If David Moyes's masterplan continues to follow the path it has taken thus far, then players like Phil Jagielka will be the bedrock of our team for years to come. We have progressed now from signing pure workhorses and grafters and we are looking, slowly but surely, to integrate some real class and ability. Alongside those attributes, however, it is abundantly clear that the right attitude, commitment to the squad ethos, and a real willingness to put in the effort will still be an absolute pre-requisite. Jags doesn't just 'tick the boxes' in these areas ? he sets a new standard.

The deathly silence that descended on Goodison for 10 minutes yesterday following his heart-breakingly cruel injury was evidence enough of the esteem he is now held in amongst Evertonians and the massive reliance we have maybe taken for granted on his rock solid presence.

I can honestly say the thoughts running through my head at the time were "fuck the Cup Final". When things like that happen, it kind of makes you ask what it's all about and what the point is, doesn't it??

You see cheats, albeit talented ones, like Ronaldo, Gerrard, Drogba throwing themselves around the pitch like the nasty little tarts that they are and think to yourself "what goes around, comes around" and "they'll get theirs"... but they never do, do they??

You get the likes of Dimitar Berbatov and other similar prima donna players strolling around the park without a care in the world, just turning up when they fancy it, yet everything seems to fall into their lap in the bigger picture.

Yesterday, we saw an embarrassingly tepid display from an undoubtedly talented player in Louis Saha, he clearly wasn't 'up for it' in the slightest and he epitomised our first half ineptitude.

Contrast that with Phil Jagielka's performance, the way in which he got injured in fact, tear-arsing around the pitch, leading by example, giving a 100% to the cause as always and trying to claw us back into the game, and then look at his reward for that.

This world is a sick, sick place to be sometimes. Alas, there is nothing we can do about it, what has gone, has gone. Whether we like it or not, as always, we have to deal with it.

What will make me feel better though is saying these words: Phil, you are an absolute legend, mate, and we all want you to know that whilst you are out it just won't feel the same.

I was a massive, massive fan of Davie Weir and all that he stood for and I have to say Phil has come in and, yet again, re-written the book on standards.

Whether we win the cup or lose it, for me, it just won't feel right without Jags marshalling that back 4 and that is a measure of what the man has become to this club, in my opinion of course.

After his penalty miss against Fiorentina, as sick as it may sound, I was actually willing Anderson to score his penalty at Wembley last week because I knew Jags would be up last and I had a 100% faith in him to win it for us. Win it he did and, in my opinion, nobody at the club deserved it more than him.

I hope the lads can go and complete the job at Wembley on the 30th, for all of us ? and, in doing so, provide The Jagger Man with a trophy to go along with his absolutely nailed-on Player of the Year awards.

Keep your spirits up, mate, get the rehab done and we'll see you again around Christmas time. It feels like the roof has caved in just now but, at 26, it is my opinion that we are talking about the Everton captain of maybe the next 10 years.

He'll be back, bigger, better and stronger than ever. Fernando Torres, enjoy your day release from his back pocket because The Jag will be back.

There's only one Jagielka, one Jag-iel-ka.

Reader Comments

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Lee Gorre
1   Posted 26/04/2009 at 17:12:16

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In an era where there is a multitude of greedy, arrogant and simply downright unlikeable footballers, we are very lucky at our club to have a number of players that are salt-of-the-earth types.

The Jag, Neville, Cahill and Arteta stand out as all-round decent blokes, and we have numerous others also, and the manager takes a lot of credit for this.
Michael Hunt
2   Posted 26/04/2009 at 17:06:23

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Here here, and so say all of us! Get well soon Jags, can?t wait to give him a roaring welcome back at Goodison later in 2009, hopefully the man will come back into the side that shall be reigning FA Cup Holders. No way would we have the chance to win it without Jags? masterclasses (especially versus Torres as we knocked out the shite).

There will be nothing more fitting than for the TEAM THAT'S GONNA WIN THE FA CUP, to dedicate the win to all the players that made it possible, none more so than PHENOMENAL PHIL, Player of the Season by a country mile.

John McEwan
3   Posted 26/04/2009 at 17:11:12

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Neil, A great summary of what Jagielka has achieved. Like you, I believe he will prove to be a legend at Everton! I can?t believe the challenges we have had this season with injuries but I went to Chelsea on Wednesday and Yobo and Lescott did really well, so we're still on for the Cup!
Matthew Lovekin
4   Posted 26/04/2009 at 17:00:09

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Neil, that’s exactly how I feel.

It’s taken me two days to write a response to Jags’ injury as I have literally been speechless.

Our best striker, Yakubu being out for about nine months was bad. Our best midfielder and our most (and probably only) creative player, Arteta out for nine months was devasting, but for our best defender, player of the season, probable future captain and general inspiration, Jags likely to be ruled out for about nine months, well I’m speechless and don’t know how to describe it. Add to that Vaughan and Anichebe both being out for around five months this season, and words can’t describe it.

Why has it happened to Everton? Perhaps the pitch needs looking at? Perhaps the training is too intense? Probably none of these. At the end of the day, it’s really just absolute shit luck. The likes of Man Utd and Liverpool don’t get these injuries, but Everton get their best players in each area of the pitch tragically struck down all at the same time.

I certainly don’t give a shit about the loss to Man City. I’m really struggling to care for the Cup Final at the moment. Even next season is already looking a disaster. It’s widely acknowledged that the number of months a player is out, it takes the same number in weeks to get back to match fitness. Therefore if players are out nine months, when they come back that’s another nine weeks to get back to their best. That’s a total of eleven months, almost a whole year. In Jagielka’s case that means virtually the whole of next season is already written off. Arteta won’t be back to his best until Christmas. How much worse can it get?

The only shining light for me now is Cahill. If you look at Everton’s record over the last few years, when Cahill has played, we’ve generally won. When Cahill has been injured (which has been a fair amount of time) we’ve generally lost. I’m currently praying and keeping everything crossed that Cahill stays fit.

Just when you think Everton are moving in the right direction and getting somewhere, another cruel act strikes us down. Somehow we need to recover, I just don’t know how yet.
Matt Bone
5   Posted 26/04/2009 at 17:32:43

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Matthew Lovekin ? Our injuries have nothing to do with the pitch. It could just be bad luck; however, it's more likely to be due to the small squad size. Muscles, tendons and ligaments are more fragile in these times as the players are trained to such a high level of fitness that they sometimes snap. With the extra games also these days unfortunately these things are becoming more frequent.
Trevor Lynes
6   Posted 26/04/2009 at 18:13:32

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I fully agree with Matt... it's the tiny squad who have had to play every game without respite throughout the season that has caused injuries and fatigue. It's quite obvious to everyone that squads need to be large enough to be able to rotate without losing quality if we are to be able to make a real contest with the top 4 on a regular basis. I have been saying this for ages and each season has seen a dip in form due to injuries, fatigue and suspensions to wards the end.

We have qualified for Europe which will mean even more games, so if we don't take on more good quality players to supplement our first eleven and hopefully improve us in some positions, then we will flounder and that's inevitable unfortunately.

We have several players who have been showing signs of fatigue for quite a while, but they have continued to play in every game and done miraculously well; although the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak, and I'm certain that Jagielka's injury and some players' dip in form has been a result of playing too many games.

We desperately need good investment otherwise we will struggle to maintain our present position in the league never mind improve to break into the top four....we need to get rid of some deadwood who are being paid for nothing and bring in two top class players plus at least four ?name? premier standard squaddies if we are to sufficiently improve enough to cement our progress next season!!!

Ian Tunny
7   Posted 26/04/2009 at 18:47:45

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Jags... what a player, what a guy. He will be back and stronger than ever.

Other squad members must step up and be counted, which will make them all stronger in the long run. Everton must keep their heads up and move on and continue the push, or they will have all been injured for nothing, after all they have worked for. I'm sure the players will find an extra 10% from somewhere.
Joe Jennings
8   Posted 26/04/2009 at 18:43:32

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Great article.

Words don?t do justice to how big a blow losing Jags is really. But, at the end of the day, we havn?t beaten Macclesfield, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Manchester United to give up now.

We will fight, scrap and bleed come May 30th, and I?m confident we?ll be coming home with the cup, as nothing ? and I mean nothing ? can douse the spirit of this side.

Nil Satis...
Micky Norman
9   Posted 26/04/2009 at 19:14:13

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We simply cannot take any more risks with our squad. We?ve got to play the kids from here on in. If we lose every game leading up to the Cup Final but win on May 30th, I for one won?t give a monkey?s. Finishing 5th 6th 7th or 8th doesn?t matter at all. Winning a trophy does. Let?s play the reserves and youth team for the last few games and let the first team squad concentrate on staying fit and getting it right for just one game. I do not want to see the same thing next week, for Lescott or Baines or Cahill. Get back soon Jags, top bloke and future captain.
Mark Scarratt
10   Posted 26/04/2009 at 19:38:08

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Jags has been fantastic. His injury was a total fluke and could have happened in the first game of the season. Our players don?t play too many games. Any footballer should be able to play 2 games per week, no problem.

Frank Lampard has played over 60 games already this season. The top players play the most games, simple as that. Fatigue is all in the head and is planted there by moaning managers such as Wenger.

Bottom line is that if you want success you play loads of games. Ask any player and they would always choose playing ahead of training.

Danny Militwitch
11   Posted 26/04/2009 at 19:47:49

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Agree with Mark above, all this nonsense about too many games etc, in todays game the players are specimens of physical fitness, at Finch Farm we have the best physiotherapists, dietitians, medical teams etc.

What happened to Jags was more of a reflection of the commitment he always demonstrates while leading the back 4 and also his insatiable appetite to compete and win every challenge.

The difference between Jagielka and your Ronaldo?s, Berba?s, Drogba?s etc, is that they won't lay it on the line like he does. That's why there seems to be no justice when we find ourselves with key players missing.

The way David Moyes sends out our teams is to give nothing but 100%. If that cannot be demonstrated ability-wise then it must be given in blood, sweat, and tears. As hard as it is to swallow on the cusp of a cup final, I would not have have us play any other way.

My heart goes out to Jags, as it does to Arteta and Yakubu. But we have shown that no-ONE-man makes this team great. Collectively we have shown the world what we are capable of, and although we have lost another hero, that has merely created a space for a new one.
Ian Tunny
12   Posted 26/04/2009 at 20:42:27

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Micky Norman, I can't say i agree with you there, if people had that attitude being scared to get an injury, it wouldn't be worth getting out of bed in the morning. Jags just had a freak accident, injuries are all part of football, we just have to deal with it.
Phil Bellis
13   Posted 26/04/2009 at 21:28:31

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Well said, Mark.
I was going to look up the appearances for Man U and Chelsea as I thought some of their players were ever present when fit. You saved me the trouble with the Lampard figure. And Jags ? top man, top player up there already with the likes of Watson and Ratcliffe. As for you, omnipotent deity ? ?The higher you build your barriers...?
Matt Bone
14   Posted 26/04/2009 at 22:02:43

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Ok, so a couple of you disagree with the number of games played being to blame for our injuries this season ? the number of games was part of the reason ? I?m also saying that these days players train much harder and are in bigger and stronger. Muscles (and other soft tissue body parts) are stretched nearly to breaking point. Look at how much bigger and toned today's players are compared with 10-15 years ago. Look at how much quicker the game is.

If you can consider a balloon instead of a muscle, blow the balloon up as much as you can without it bursting and then get a pin within sniffing distance of the balloon and it will pop. Now take a balloon and half inflate it and now you are able to lightly prod the balloon without it popping as there is still some elasticity left in it. The first scenario unfortunately is how modern players are these days. Add 60 games with little rest and muscles, ligaments and tendons go pop.

Coincidence or not ? who has played in virtually all Evertons games this year? Jags. Would have loved to have seen him at Wembley. hope he makes a speedy recovery ? time for Yobo to step up.

Dick Bennett
15   Posted 26/04/2009 at 23:10:06

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Fine player, and unquestionably a rock for Everton and England for many years to come. On the other hand, when the issue if divine retribution comes up, it?s only right to recall his foul against Manc. Had it been called, and I think we all agree deep down it was a pen, there probably would have been no cup final for him to miss.... This divine business can indeed work in unpredictable ways.
Mick Parrington
16   Posted 27/04/2009 at 03:49:27

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If you want a good answer as to why Man Utd put out the team that they did against us in the Semi-Final, then the injury to Jags is the best reason. There is no way Fergie wanted to loose the likes of Ronaldo & Rooney to this sort of injury.

The squad is small at the moment and having so many tough games in such a short period of time puts strain on even the fittest footballers.

If Everton are going to continue to compete for European football & domestic cups then they will need to build some more depth into the squad, otherwise these sort of injuries will continue to effect us.

Its bad luck for Jags. If there is 1 player that absolutely deserved to be at Wembley for the final its him. Hopefully the rest of the lads can go out and do something special on the day for him, Arteta & Yakubu....

Mike Green
17   Posted 27/04/2009 at 09:11:20

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Firstly - Phil, if you’re reading this, you’ve been a legend this season, nailed on Player of the Year. As you can see everyones devastated for you - get well soon and come back bigger and better next season.

Secondly - all this talk of letting the season peter out / play the reserves / play the kids and concentrate on the FA Cup Final only is bollocks. Did Jags put his body on the line for 34 games so we could toss it off at the end? Villa are there for the taking, its important for the players, club and fans for us to get the league finish we deserve - which is 5th.

We’ve got 4 games left of the season and should use them as proper preparation for the Cup final by COMPETING in them and WINNING them.

I’m all for having a degree of rotation, resting players here and there and bringing in players who might be needed on the day to up their match fitness but we need to finish the season as the club that have faced all the trials this season by accepting nothing but the best will do.

Nil Satis Nisi Optimum

Get well soon Jags, all our thoughts are with you.
Sam Morrison
18   Posted 27/04/2009 at 10:31:03

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Great article, Neil.
Jon Parry
19   Posted 27/04/2009 at 10:49:34

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I?m a Blade and was absolutley gutted for Jags. He has always been a professional, honest footballer with great talent. He was on Radio Sheffield last week saying how pleased he was to get to a cup final after being robbed of the chance by Graham Poll when the Blades played Arsenal. He?s a legend at Bramall Lane and will become one at Everton.

My sons and I have adopted the Toffees as our second team because of Jags. He will always be an honorary Blade. It?s the first time for over 5 years that he?s missed matches through injury. He very rarely gets booked and he plays the game fairly. I hope that we can see him down at Bramall Lane next year if we get promotion. Just listen to the reception he receives.

Tony Lynch
20   Posted 27/04/2009 at 12:06:34

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Gutted that Jagielka is out for the rest of the season and of course but the way some people are going on you?d think he?d died! We?ve got to get on with the job in hand now (which I?m sure is what Moyes will be telling the players). Think some of you need a bit of perspective.
Dave Wilson
21   Posted 27/04/2009 at 12:19:41

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"It makes me just want to cry and give up"
"this world is a sick, sick place sometimes"

Fucken hell, Neil lad, have you tried the Samaritans? I?m gutted too, but go easy on the melodrama please. Jagielka is a pro footballer, they get injured mate, that's life.
Tony Williams
22   Posted 27/04/2009 at 13:21:16

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I don?t get the "too many games" scenario. Look at Yakubu, he was out in November, Arteta in February.

Jags was just unlucky, the season before when we had a great run in Europe, no-one was getting injured then and we probably played the most games we have in a long time.

They are professional athletes who have honed their bodies to take the strain, just an unlucky and devastating injury, nothing more.
Tim Wardrop
23   Posted 27/04/2009 at 14:29:52

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Let’s try and look on the bright side: it’s better news than Howard or Cahill being injured. I’ve always said that you can’t fit a fag paper between Jags, Lescott and Yobo. In my opinion Lescott comes out on top in tackling, threat going forward and giving balance to the team (left foot), Jags is best at marking and strength and Yobo has the pace, agility and aerial strength. I really don’t think we’re any weaker having Yobo and Lescott at centre half, we just have to make sure they both stay fit, else we are screwed. It’s a cruel blow for Jags though.

Without Cahill though we would be in serious trouble. The game on Saturday was proof that without him we don’t have the necessary penetration in the opposition box. If we lost Cahill and Fellaini then I think the best we could hope for would be a 0-0 and penalties.
Vincent Siow
24   Posted 27/04/2009 at 15:31:50

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I love you Jagielka....Please take care and recover soon.
Tom Hutton
25   Posted 27/04/2009 at 16:01:03

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Jags has been the epitome of Everton Football Club this season.

Having played centre half for many a year 'til a broken tib and fib which led to an obliterated achilles brought on early retirement, I can say that Jags is in the mould of some of our great centre halves: Ratters, Davey Watson, Davie Weir ? all long servants to our club ? none of them whingeing scum crying to the ref about getting what any good centre half should be giving out.

Strength, speed, ability to read the game, basics like being in the right place and being willing to put your foot / head / knee / shoulder / anything else when required in and get up ? not lie on the floor screaming like a 3-year-old thinking the ref owes you a favour.

Jags, get well soon, you are a future club captain and you deserve a speedy recovery to come back where you left off.

I look forward to seeing you hobbling round with your winning team mates absorbing the adulation shown to our great club and you lucky souls who have been blessed with a talent thousands of us would love to have had for the opportunity to wear the royal blue of ?our? club.


Stewart Littler
26   Posted 29/04/2009 at 03:15:43

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Good luck with your recovery Jags, this stuff about too many games - Lescott has played most games and he aint injured - its bad luck and nothing more. I did my ACL playing for a uni team, and I’d played 2 games in 3 months prior to it - the ligament is stronger when the quads and calf are stronger (which they are for a pro footballer) but has a weak point, and when you get a freak accident (as was the case for Arteta and Jags), it will go, end of.
I also agree with many of you who say it is not the end of the world - I was also at Chelsea, and the two Jo’s looked more than capable at the back. Let’s take 5th and the Cup, for Jags, Mikel, the Yak and all our other injured colleagues in this most challenging of seasons... COYB
Lee Gray
27   Posted 30/04/2009 at 23:03:19

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Great read!!
Missed the game through work and was in Hamburg nearly threw up when I read the text, however lets go and win it for him, because of what he is tells me Jags will be bigger and stronger than before.
Good Luck Jags!
Will Leaf
28   Posted 30/04/2009 at 23:26:39

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I do not envy him the rehab process. It is truly brutal. I tore my ACL about ten years ago, and the day after the surgery, when the IV morphine has worn off, was a day of the most intense pain. Also, the first two weeks of rehab are especially no fun. However, if all goes well, and depending upon the actual damage to the other parts of the knee, menisci etc, the knee can come back stronger than before, as mine did.

Once you are over the physical hurdles, there is a huge psychological fear of it happening again. Jags will be terrified when that first full-blooded tackle arrives. But that will fade, though I doubt it entirely leaves the minds of anyone who has undergone this injury.

Anywho, all the best and a very speedy recovery to our player of the season.

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