Jagielka Backing Young Stars To Thrive Under Boss

by Paul McNamara

Phil Jagielka is “delighted” Sam Allardyce has given “exceptional” Mason Holgate an extended run in Everton’s team – and expects centre-back Michael Keane to do a “fantastic job” for the Blues under the guidance of the Club’s manager.

England Under-21 international Holgate was outstanding in the middle of defence alongside Ashley Williams in caretaker boss David Unsworth’s final game at the helm in late November when Everton beat West Ham United 4-0.

Allardyce fielded Holgate in his side’s next four Premier League fixtures and was rewarded with a string of outstanding displays from the 21-year-old, as the Toffees launched their new boss’ reign with a seven-match unbeaten run.

Everton’s fortunes have dipped in recent weeks – albeit they remain ninth in the table, in large part thanks to the upturn inspired by Allardyce following his appointment – but Jagielka insists the players are all “pulling in the same direction” in a bid to rediscover their winning formula.

And that ‘all-for-one’ mentality extends to 35-year-old Jagielka being thrilled to see Holgate cement his berth in the Blues’ back four – even if the the skipper’s own playing opportunities are reduced as a consequence of the younger man’s burgeoning form.

Neither Jagielka nor Keane were available for Allardyce’s first match in charge – the 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town – but the duo had to settle for substitute’s briefs when they returned for encounters with Liverpool, Newcastle United and Swansea City, when Everton collected another seven points and conceded only two goals.

“Mason got a chance against West Ham and played really well,” Jagielka told evertonfc.com. “Sometimes as a young lad you tend to get pulled out of the team if an older pro gets fit. But I was delighted the manager stuck with him.

“He deserved it. I thought he was man of the match away at Newcastle [a 1-0 win] and he has performed exceptionally well.

“It is nice that he has got some confidence and developed a good, solid partnership with Ashley Williams as well.

“We are all pulling in the same direction. We are not pulling against each other, we want to push each other on to perform well.”

Holgate joined Everton from then League One Barnsley in August 2015 and made his Premier League debut 12 months later in a 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park.

He played 18 times in the top flight last term but was deployed at right-back in the majority of those matches.

Nine of Holgate’s 10 appearances on Allardyce’s watch, however, have come in central defence, where Keane was also steadily establishing himself until he suffered a badly cut foot against former club Manchester United on New Year’s Day.

England international Keane was fit enough to return to the matchday squad for last weekend’s clash with West Bromwich Albion – and Jagielka is certain his teammate, signed from Burnley last summer, will blossom under Allardyce’s tutelage on Merseyside.

“Keano has had a couple of injuries recently, so it has not been ideal for him, but it is only his first season here,” said Jagielka, now in his 11th campaign with the Blues.

“He will settle down and I am sure he will do a fantastic job for Everton, especially under the guidance of the manager here.

“Mason will always do what is required when he is asked to play right-back, even though it is not his strongest position.

“But when the manager puts belief in you, and picks you over other players in the position where you are most comfortable, it gives you that little bit more confidence.

“Communication is a massive thing as a defender and he talks well. He is still learning and has definitely done himself a lot of good over the past couple of months.”

Jagielka had to wait until the Premier League meeting with Chelsea two days before Christmas for his first start following Allardyce’s appointment.

The 40-cap England player has lined up in a further three games under the former Bolton Wanderers and Crystal Palace boss, and has totted up 343 Premier League outings since his debut in the competition for Sheffield United way back in August 2006.

And Jagielka insists he, too, is profiting from the wisdom of Allardyce, who carved out his own playing career as a centre-half for clubs including Bolton and Preston North End. before hanging up his boots in 1992.

“I am definitely picking up bits from the manager,” added Jagielka, who could potentially feature when Everton resume their Premier League campaign with the visit of Leicester City on Wednesday night.

“It is not so much new things, more a different way of doing things, sometimes.

“Every manager has different ideas on how to defend set pieces and defend during the game – and about a defender's role in his team.

“It is about the manager putting his beliefs across to not only the defenders, but the midfielders and attackers as well… and we go from there.

“We want to move this club forward and if we can put in more performances like we were a month ago, then we will have more points to show for it.”

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