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Stoke City (H) Fri 26 Dec 2014, 15:00, Barclays Premier League

Jags Back To His Best

by Andy Lewis @efc_andylewis

Phil Jagielka is feeling like his old self after making a superb start to the season.

The defender was at his sparkling best in front of England boss Roy Hodgson as Manchester United were shut out on the opening day of the season, while there was also a swagger about his play at Aston Villa the following week.

Niggling injuries punctuated his 2011/12 campaign and Jagielka admits he probably wasn’t at the very top of his game last term.

But his return to top form was rewarded when he got the nod ahead of Chelsea’s Gary Cahill for the Three Lions in midweek – and the 30-year-old insists he is feeling good.

Jagielka said: “We’re only four or five games into the season but I needed a good start. You set yourself high standards and I’ve maybe not reached them as consistently as I’d like in the last season or so.

“It was a boost of confidence to get the nod for England. I don’t think there is much to choose between me and Gaz (Cahill). We are good friends, we mess about at table tennis and things like that.

“It’s hard knowing it’s one from two, but we got told the day before so that gave us a chance to prepare. But I know if one of the first-choice centre-backs is injured for the next time, I’m not automatically straight in. Gaz has got as good a chance of playing.”

Next up for Jagielka and Everton is a home game against Newcastle United and the Blues defender feels Magpies boss Alan Pardew could have exercised a little more tact towards the end of last season.

Pardew claimed his side were ‘in a different league’ to Everton following their fine campaign before losing 3-1 in convincing fashion at Goodison on the final day.

And Jagielka said: “I wouldn’t say there is a bit of an edge to the game on Monday, but I think it’s a little bit disrespectful for someone to say something like that after one good season.

“Fair play, Newcastle had a fantastic season and massively overachieved, but they aren’t the first team to overachieve for a season.

“In the Premier League it’s all about consistency, and if you look at how we have performed over the years, then it’s a little bit disrespectful to come out and say something like that.”

The Magpies have made a stuttering start this time around, while the Blues will want to get defeat at West Brom out of their system and recapture the form that saw them brush aside United and Villa.

“It was important we got off to a good start and we have another Monday night game at Goodison and hopefully the boys can do well again," added Jagielka.

“We enjoy those Monday night games especially when the other teams are like Man United and Newcastle, who always bring great support. The result was great for us against United but after the disappointing result and performance against West Brom hopefully we can bounce back at home.”

To book your place to see the Blues face Newcastle click here, or call the box office on 0871 663 1878* and select option 1. Alternately, pop to the Park End box office.

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