Jags: The Secret Of My Scoring Success

The original version of this feature interview appeared in the matchday programme for Saturday’s home Premier League fixture against Burnley.

Gary Lineker chose not to shoot during the pre-match warm-up through fear of “wasting” his goals, while the great Pele once gave his match-worn shirt to a fan, only to then suffer a dip in form and frantically attempt to track it down in a bid to rediscover his magic touch.

Phil Jagielka may not be superstitious to that extreme, but he has been known for an interesting quirk or two during his decade with the Blues.

The 34-year-old once revealed he would eat chicken and pasta with a particular tomato and mascarpone sauce on the eve of every game, choosing to dash to the local shop to pick up those ingredients if needed rather than eating something else.

In years gone by, there has also been a go-to CD that had to be played travelling to a game and in the changing rooms ahead of kick-off.

And now Jagielka has revealed the secret behind his recent goalscoring exploits - a new pair of lucky boots.

The skipper’s opener against Manchester United at Old Trafford last week was his first strike in the Premier League for 703 days. And that was quickly followed by a second in six days as he headed home Kevin Mirallas’ corner to help the Blues on their way to a 4-2 victory over Leicester City last time out.

He made it three in three on Saturday against Burnley, producing a cartwheel celebration after nudging the ball over the line at the Howard Kendall Gwladys Street End.

Jagielka Goal Manchester United 480

“The lads have been been laughing away at my goals!” he smiles. “It’s been a case of change of boots, change of luck for me. Some new boots came out and I’ve managed an assist and a few of goals in them, so hopefully that continues.

“The main thing is that they’ve been important goals, scored at important times and they’ve meant something at the end of the game. We’ve still got a few games left this season and, hopefully, I’ve not used all my goals up just yet.”

Jagielka became the 17th different Everton player to score in the Premier League this season, a figure that no other club can match.

“It’s always nice to score goals,” he says. “It’s something I’ve taken a bit of stick for - not scoring many, especially recently. So it has been nice to get a couple.

“Goals come from everywhere in successful teams. It is important that midfielders chip in and defenders do the same from set pieces. There is no point getting free-kicks and corners if you aren’t scoring from them. We’ve done well in that respect in the last few games and we want to build on it. 

“Rom, of course, is flying up there at the moment but it’s good to know that if he has an off day then there are other people capable of sticking it in the back of the net.”

Ronald Koeman has overseen an outstanding start to 2017 at Goodison Park with Everton recording eight straight home league wins. 

On a personal level, however, Jagielka was forced to watch on from the sidelines in the first two months of the year, his only action a late cameo in the 1-0 win at Crystal Palace in mid-January.

But even as an experienced campaigner, the England defender says the testing spell provided a shot in the arm. And it has shown, with Jagielka starring at the heart of the Blues’ defence since returning to the starting line-up six games ago.

 “Of course, nobody likes to not play,” he explains. “I’ve played most of the time when I’ve been fit through my career, so to have a period on the bench mainly warming-up was difficult. You still have to play your role and make sure everyone is ready for the games ahead. Thankfully, the results were good. The boys have done well for the majority of the season and we want that to continue until the end of the season.

“It’s probably given me a bit of a kick up the backside to get my head down and try to prove that I’m worth my place in the team.

“It makes you take nothing for granted. It has been nice to be back in the team. There are five games left and I’m hoping to feature in all of them.”

The responsibility of becoming the Club’s captain was first handed to Jagielka following the retirement of Phil Neville in 2013.

It is a role that he first took in his early twenties, deputising for Chris Morgan during his time with Sheffield United.

Phil Jagielka Captain 480

“I think most people know I am quite loud and I talk quite a lot!” he says. “Being captain is something that has always come quite natural to me, but there is no exact science to leading a team. It’s more obvious from the captain, but we’ve got leaders who have been at the Club for a long time that do their fair share as well, especially on matchdays.

“Being captain is something I enjoy. There’s no greater feeling leading out the troops, especially when the team is performing well.

“Being captain of a side of this magnitude is an honour, it’s a little way of putting your name in the Club’s history. I remember being taken to the Captain’s Board when my name was scratched in. That’ll be there forever and that means a lot to me.”

They say a week is a long time in football, which makes Jagielka’s 10 years’ service to one club all the more remarkable.

His consistency and unwavering commitment to the cause will ensure his place in Everton folklore for many years to come - and the centre-back says the Club will always remain close to his heart, even when the time comes to hang up his boots later down the line.

“Everton will be a big part of my life forever,” he insists. “The Club will never leave me. My little boy is an Evertonian - he didn’t have much choice in the matter but he loves it! I’ve also got a two-year-old nephew, who is already coming to all the games and singing Everton songs.

“It’s a huge part of my life now and I’m delighted to say that. Hopefully, even 10 and 20 years down the line, I’ll still be able to come back and enjoy the atmosphere around the place.”

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