Below is part one of a four-part series featuring the Blues’ England duo – Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka – that will run this week on evertonfc.com. Today we discuss their involvement in the England set-up, while tomorrow part two will focus on how they intend to improve Everton’s defensive fortunes. Friday will see them preview the trip to Chelsea before the fourth and concluding segment (Saturday) will feature Jagielka on Baines, and Baines on Jagielka.
Having helped England navigate their way through European Championship qualifying, Everton’s Three Lions’ duo have quickly refocused on consistently producing the type of league form that will earn them a place on the plane next summer.
Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka have been virtual ever-presents in Fabio Capello’s squads since the 2010 World Cup failure and, while their time on the pitch may have been restricted, the venerable Italian clearly views them as part of his core group of players.
Neither Baines nor Jagielka have been a part of a major tournament before, and both know their form for Everton now holds the key to them achieving that particular footballing dream.
“Playing well for Everton is all I can do to hope to be in the squad come the end of the season,” Jagielka told evertontv in the aftermath of qualification.
“Time is running out for me to be involved in a major tournament and I would love to be picked for the squad.
“But there is an awfully long way to go until the end of the season. I have been in most of the squads through the qualifying campaign but as we all know – injury or loss of form can cost you your place. Hopefully I can be alright on both of those counts and get the chance to go.”
Qualification came off the back of a 2-2 draw in Montenegro on Friday night. The result was greeted by bedlam in and around the ground as the draw also meant the hosts had secured a place in the play-offs.
And Baines said: “Maybe immediately after the game there was a tinge of disappointment that we had drawn having been two goals up and then conceding twice. But we needed a draw and probably would have taken that before the game and we were happy to qualify.”
The Blues full-back had a watching brief from the bench for the crunch game and was joined by teammate Jagielka, who added: “We knew we had to get a point to qualify and in the end we got it. After the game I got selected for a drugs test and I was sat in the testing room with a couple of their lads and they were absolutely buzzing – really pleased to have got into the play-offs.
“So in a nice world maybe it was a good result for both us and them.”
Capello has so far used a wide array of players in his squads – particularly after watching the established order fail so miserably in South Africa.
The likes of Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have all been fast-tracked to the senior set-up, and Baines says this trend means anyone hoping to travel to the finals in Poland and Ukraine will have to be at the top of their game this season.
He said: “I think there are a lot of lads - including players who have not even been in the squad yet – who are in with a decent chance as the England manager has shown in the past he will pick players if he thinks they are good enough. He has given a lot of players their first caps and is not worried about getting new faces involved.”