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EVERTON FC defender Phil Jagielka didn’t get a wink of sleep, but he was not too bothered.
As thousands of Evertonians descended on the south German city of Nuremberg in November 2007, their enthusiasm made it difficult for the players to get some rest.
But it mattered little as Everton won at the easyCredit Frankenstadion that night thanks to late goals from Mikel Arteta and Victor Anichebe to make it back-to-back wins in the Uefa Cup group stages.
And though Jagielka was only used as a last minute replacement,, the whistle stop tour of Nuremberg still left an impression on the defender.
Everton have been without European football since 2010 but their encouraging start to the Premier League season has allowed hope of a return to the continent to grow.
Jagielka says qualifying for the Champions League remains the ultimate aim but knows securing a place in the Europa League will be celebrated.
Europe’s premier club competition has gross commercial income estimated at 1.09bn Euros, with the Europa League said to generate less than 20% of that figure, despite having 24 more clubs involved.
Jagielka understands that every club would love to tap into the riches of the Champions League but says there is real value in playing in the Europa League, as the fans in Germany that night proved.
“We were in the hotel in Nuremberg and when we looked out the window, there were fans on top of the bus stop,” Jagielka says with a smile. “We probably couldn’t sleep because of the noise the fans were making but it was great to see them and one of those European memories that really stays with me.
“Also, I made my comeback against Sporting Lisbon after my injury and I got a nice reception off the fans.
“There have been different nights, for different reasons in Europe which have stood out for me but it would’ve been nice to have gone a little bit further.
“I know the manager is desperate and he would love to go in the Champions League but there are going to be two of three teams that are knocking on the door for that fourth spot.
He added: “A lot of people are desperate to get in the Champions League but are not so keen to get in the Europa League because of the financial difference between the competitions.
“The Champions League is massive but you don’t start making money until the latter stages of the Europa. But if you talked to the players about the nights we had three or four years ago, then I’m sure they’ll all say it’s fantastic.
”It’s another cup you want to try and win and they’ll be a lot of very good teams in it again next year. It makes the season longer and a little harder but at the same time it gives the squad even more chance to become one and give lads more chance to play.
“We’d love to be in Europe. Ideally it would be for the Champions League but the club have finished fourth before and not made it through to the group stages, so there are no guarantees.
“We’d love to be able to give European football as a thank-you to the fans and though all the travel becomes expensive, I know they’d love it.”
PHIL JAGIELKA has heard all the transfer tittle tattle there is.
The England man is a veteran when it comes to handling the vagaries of the transfer window.
Last year, the Everton centre-half was repeatedly linked with a move to Arsenal. The deal, of course, never materialised and any interest from north London, if it existed, remained only that.
Nevertheless, Jagielka found his name constantly in the newspapers, across the radio airwaves and on various television stations as that infamous rumour mill worked relentlessly in January and again over that summer.
For Jagielka, the speculation was easy to deal with because unless David Moyes decided otherwise, his long-term future was at Goodison Park.
As the latest transfer window approaches, Everton’s top talent are certain to be linked with a variety of moves away from Merseyside but Jagielka is relaxed about it all.
“Different people deal with it in different ways,” he said.
“For me it was the most simple decision in the world: nothing was going to happen with me until the day arrived that Everton came and said they were selling me.
“As much as you pick up the paper and see yourself linked and have people asking you all the time, it was all as simple as that for me.
“Every player is different. Another player might want to move or another player has his head filled with numbers by an agent. But my agent knows exactly what I want and how I work, my parents know how I work and so it was always a simple one for me.
“It will happen, some of our players will get linked but hopefully the club is in a strong position now to not have to take any bids.”
LEON OSMAN insists Everton FC are not overly reliant on Marouane Fellaini – but says the Belgian should not carry the goal-scoring burden alone.
The former Standard Liege midfielder has scored five of his side’s last six goals and taken his personal tally for the campaign to eight, but David Moyes’s men have also had 10 different goalscorers so far this term.
Despite struggling for top form, Nikica Jelavic has found the back of the net five times, and with Kevin Mirallas, Steven Naismith and Osman himself all chipping in, the midfielder does not believe Fellaini’s presence is Everton’s only attacking threat.
He said: “He’s a massive player for us at the minute – that’s evident in the way he’s playing and the way we play.
“But we’re not a one-man team; we’ve got a number of good players this year. I think it’s shown in our football this year how we’re developing as a team and that we’re becoming a better footballing team.
“It’s always important to try and spread the goals, but at the same time you’re going to get a period in the season where it’s tough and you need your players playing up the pitch to score the goals. Felli’s certainly been doing that for us lately.”
With Tottenham Hotspur next to visit Goodison on Sunday, Osman is excited by the prospect of a third high-profile encounter in 10 days following 1-1 draws with Arsenal and Premier League champions Manchester City.
The recently-capped England international added: “It’s another tough test, of course. Tottenham are one of the better teams in the league. They were unlucky not to get a Champions League place last year after finishing fourth, so it’s important that we’re on our game this weekend for a difficult match.”
TICKETS for Sunday’s home game against Tottenham are now on general sale.
THE Blues will be getting into the festive spirit this weekend to celebrate the final visit to Goodison Park before Christmas.
Ahead of Everton’s kick-off against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, there will be a special treat in store for junior supporters as Blue Santa and his reindeer will be at the stadium to meet them.
Blue Santa will arrive on his sleigh with his reindeer at 1pm to wish supporters a very merry Christmas.
The Salvation Army band and youngsters from St Sebastian’s and St Cuthbert’s Catholic Primary School choir will also sing carols on and off the pitch before the game.
There’s also another chance for junior Evertonians to make sure Blue Santa receives their wishlists in time for Christmas with two special Everton postboxes in place at the Family Enclosure and near the Everton roadshow in the Park End car park.
And there’s a special Christmas giveaway in this Sunday’s match programme with the chance for one lucky supporter to win a Half Season Ticket.
Evertonians have been rushing to secure their seat for the second half of the season since the 10-match package went on sale last month, and to celebrate the Blues dedicated festive fixture, a ‘Golden Half Season Ticket’ has been hidden inside one copy of the match programme.
Half Season Tickets are now available to buy. Call 0871 663 1878, visit evertonfc.com/eticketing or drop into the Box Office at Goodison Park or Everton Two.
Tickets are still available for Sunday’s game and start at £31 for adults and half-price for juniors. To buy tickets, simply visit the Box Office at Goodison Park, Everton Two or the TicketQuarter in Queen Square. Alternatively call 0871 663 1878 or visit evertonfc.com/eticketing.
IT IS probably the first time Phil Jagielka has been quicker than Theo Walcott.
The Everton centre-half was delighted to have clocked a time almost a second faster than the Arsenal flyer – even if it was on a computer game.
EA Sports brought their Need for Speed driving challenge to Finch Farm this week and it was Jagielka who emerged victorious in the battle of the Blues players, after he bettered the times set by Leighton Baines and Kevin Mirallas.
Jagielka moves to third in the national leader board of all Premier League clubs despite saying he is not well schooled in racing games.
The 30-year-old prefers to a more leisurely round of virtual golf, though admits there is no substitute for the real thing.
“It’s always good fun to get the boys playing computer games against each other,” he said.
“That was an equal test because some of the lads play a lot of FIFA and Call of Duty at home and so don’t stand a chance. I’ve not played racing games for a while but me and Bainsey had a good little battle.”
He added: “I’m massively into my golf so play on the Tiger Woods games.
“My little boy is getting into FIFA now and so end up playing that at the most basic of level.
“Like all little lads he’s a Lionel Messi fan but sometimes he puts me up front and scores me a couple of goals. He runs through and tells me that I’ve just scored and I know that he’s playing FIFA because it doesn’t happen in real very much.
“Golf is my number one hobby but not that easy at this time of year. The schedule tends to be quite hectic at this time of year as well so it’s just about going to the range and improving my game for when the nights get a little bit warmer.”
Jagielka was speaking at the Need for Speed Most Wanted Pro Player tournament. Need for Speed Most Wanted is out now for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, Playstation VITA, PC, IOS and Android.
The Premier League never met a money-spinning trend it didn't like, so it's no surprise to see them getting in on the act in time for this year's festival of consumerism.
What is a surprise is to see the humour and lightness of touch that Everton have brought to the genre, in this YouTube advert for their clubshop.
Appropriating the tagline of a credit card to inform us that they "can't give us Jelavic, but for everything else...", Everton also borrow from kings of the weepy-promo John Lewis with their conceit of a wholesome youngster who's dead excited about Christmas day.
Funny, charming and oddly touching. Exactly what you'd expect from the top flight's most likable club. Well played, Everton. Well played.