Training Camp Can Help Build Momentum, Says Skipper

by Paul McNamara

Phil Jagielka says Everton intend to use their Dubai training camp as a vehicle to build on the momentum gained under boss Sam Allardyce.

The Toffees will spend five days in the Middle East after jetting out on Wednesday morning. Club captain Jagielka expects their time abroad to provide a valuable opportunity for the Blues players to become more familiar with the demands of their new manager and his staff.

Everton added nine new players to their first-team squad last summer and brought in attacking pair Theo Walcott and Cenk Tosun during the January transfer window – when Eliaquim Mangala also came in on loan from Manchester City.

And Jagielka insists it is vital the Toffees squad seize this chance to form strong ties and, consequently, enhance the team's chances of achieving success down the line.

“This will give us some bonding time – not just with the players but the relatively new staff as well, which will help things moving forwards,” said Jagielka.

“It is all about us progressing forward… if you look at it as a whole, we are in a much better position than we were two months ago [Everton have moved from two points above the bottom three to two points behind seventh-placed Burnley since Allardyce watched the Toffees beat West Ham United 4-0 on the eve of his appointment].

“We have a pretty long plane journey and there will be time to train hard but also opportunities to be together as a group over there. It is all part of forming a bond and the staff have not been here too long either, so we can learn a bit more about them as characters."

Manager Allardyce has routinely opted to take his teams away for warm-weather training during the slog of an English campaign – and he expects a new environment to infuse his players with a fresh surge of energy.

"When you are on the grass in short sleeves and shorts and a pair of boots players do not want to stop training and do not want to stop playing football… in fact we have to stop them,” said Allardyce. "That is what you get when you are out in the right climate.

“It is very important that they do some bonding together, get to understand each other better and understand what each other wants to achieve. And often that cannot happen as easily when you are coming in from home every day, training and then going home again.”

Allardyce has also championed the restorative power of training in hotter conditions. And after being forced out of Saturday's victory over Crystal Palace with a minor injury sustained when the Blues defeated Leicester City 10 days earlier, Jagielka is hoping to return home on Monday poised for action.

The 35-year-old – included in Allardyce's England squad in August 2016 – has featured 16 times in the Premier League this term and is embroiled in a six-way battle for a spot in the middle of the Everton’s defence.

Michael Keane started the 3-1 success against Palace – as the Blues made it 17 points from 24 on home territory since that 4-0 win over West Ham – and was joined on the pitch by Ashley Williams following Mangala’s first-half withdrawal with a knee injury.

Allardyce has deployed Mason Holgate at centre-half in seven of his 13 matches at the helm. And Ramiro Funes Mori is closing on a first-team return after the Argentina international defender played 74 minutes of the Under-23s’ 1-0 win at Barnsley on Monday.

“We seem to have four, five, six centre-halves at the moment,” said Jagielka, who earlier this term penned a fresh deal to keep him at Goodison until summer 2019.

“I am desperate to get out there with Mason and Ash and the rest. I do not need to be looking that far and intensely into it – I am trying to get fit to train first and then go from there.

"I have played a lot of games in my career and I understand football can change quickly. I want to play but I understand how it goes. I have got to be patient and, hopefully, we keep playing as well as we did in the second half against Crystal Palace and getting the goals and winning games.”

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