Sam Allardyce believes the experience of Leighton Baines, Seamus Coleman and Phil Jagielka can play a crucial role as Everton target a strong finish to the season.
The trio have played a combined 1,016 games for the Blues but lined up together for the first time in 12 months in Everton’s convincing 2-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion last weekend.
The victory maintained Everton’s outstanding form at Goodison Park – the Toffees have now won 20 points from a possible 27 at home since Sam Allardyce watched the Blues beat West Ham United 4-0 on the eve of his appointment in November.
Indeed, over the past 10 matches, Everton’s home form is the joint-third best in the Premier League.
Manager Allardyce believes the return of three of his most experienced players will be key as the Blues aim to replicate their form at Goodison away from home – starting at Stoke City on Saturday.
“They are seasoned professionals,” said Allardyce. “You have players that have come in and done a good job. But then you see what Seamus and Leighton can bring to you, what Phil Jagielka did [last week].
"Glenn Murray is one of the top goalscorers in the Premier League over the past seven games and I think the two centre-halves [captain Jagielka and Michael Keane] marked him out of the game.
“As well as the young lads have done – they have played huge numbers of minutes this season, which is great for them in the long run and their future careers, hopefully at Everton – it has [experienced players being injured] still had an effect, particularly away from home.”
While injuries may have forced Allardyce to make changes across his backline, one ever present in his side has been goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
The 24-year-old has played every minute of every Premier League game since signing from Sunderland in the summer, quickly establishing him as a fans’ favourite with a string of standout performances.
Allardyce says the consistency of Pickford’s displays speaks volumes for his mental strength and believes the ex-Black Cats keeper has a bright future – both for Club and country.
“At 23 [when he signed], coming to as big a club as Everton and performing to the level he has on a consistent basis shows that age means nothing,” said Allardyce. “For him, he believes in what he is and I think he will grow and get better from here on in.
“He has made some critical saves and in a period of time where we have needed to get a result, he has been there for us. I think he has been our most consistent player this season.
“I rate his chances very highly in terms of his England future. Certainly, what he has done this year, compared to the people he is competing against, he has played every single game and played exceptionally well.
“Whether that is enough to get [Three Lions boss] Gareth [Southgate] to choose him as number one, only time will tell.”