What The Papers Say - 2 April
Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines feature in Tuesday's round-up.
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PHIL JAGIELKA insists he is ready to play through the pain barrier as he bids to help Everton FC gatecrash the top four.
The England defender returned to the side in time for Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Stoke, but needed a pain-killing injection into his ankle in order to take part.
Jagielka, 30, had been sidelined by a late lunge from Reading’s Adam Le Fondre during last month’s win over Reading, a challenge which left a deep gash in his ankle which is yet to fully heal.
However the central defender was desperate to be involved for David Moyes’s men again at the weekend, and is now planning on pushing himself through the discomfort to play his part in Everton’s run in.
He said: “I’ve been able to do most things other than kick a ball. It’s not quite healed up yet but it will get there and I can play without any problems.
“I’ve got to have an injection to take a bit of the pain away because there’s still a bit of scar tissue but it’s part and parcel of being a footballer.
“I’ve been desperate to get back training and playing with the lads. It’s a boring time being on your own, especially being injured.
“I’ve been there before and so it’s been nice to get back amongst it this week, even more so to play.”
Jagielka returned to form part of a freshly re-jigged defensive formation, as Moyes deployed three central defenders and used Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman as wing-backs.
It was an experiment that worked nicely for Jagielka. “The manager has had a big decision to make with the players who are fit and are available,” said the former Sheffield United man. “We’ve talked about doing it for many months with me, Johnny (Heitinga) and Sylvain (Distin) being fit for the majority of the season.
“The manager decided to do it today and I think it worked quite well, mainly because of the two wing-backs who played left and right. They have such great energy, as shown in the last few minutes when Seamus ran the ball out of play.
“As much as we enjoyed it as a back three, you have got to take your hat off to the two boys on the wing for doing all the donkey work.
“You find yourself going into different areas, especially with Sylvain and Johnny playing on the outside. I thought they both did really well and as a team we are delighted.”
Jagielka also revealed that victories for Arsenal and Spurs, coupled with Chelsea’s defeat at Southampton, had acted as extra motivation to overcome Stoke.
“With it being a late kick-off, we knew how the other results had gone,” he said. “To keep in touch with them we needed a win.
“It was a fantastic 10 seconds – the time it took Kev (Mirallas) to control it and sprint down half the pitch.
“That’s what he can do for us. It was a fantastic goal and as soon as he had got to one-versus-one, I was always putting my money on him to at least test the goalkeeper and score. Thankfully it went in.”
LEIGHTON BAINES has dismissed suggestions Everton FC’s White Hart Lane mission will be make or break for their top four dream.
The Blues travel to White Hart Lane on Sunday charged with clawing back points on the third-placed Londoners who are one of their main rivals in the hunt for Champions League football next term.
But England defender Baines does not believe everything hinges on the forthcoming fixture, even if he is convinced Everton’s fighting spirit will ensure they give every last bit of effort in the battle to secure qualification for Europe’s top club competition.
He said: “It’s a big game but there are plenty more after that and it won’t be decided by next weekend.
“We are the ones who are trailing and that probably means we are the least favourite of the teams but we are fighters.
“We won’t stop believing and we will give everything we have got, as we did last week (against Manchester City) and today.
“If we can win a few more games and get close to the end of the season, that’s where we want to be.
“It’s a very big game now (Spurs next week) and an opportunity for us to catch them or for them to get a bit of distance.”
Baines knows the Toffees will have to add more silk to the steel they displayed in a hard-fought triumph over Stoke on Saturday, although he was just happy with the points against Tony Pulis’s scrappers.
“It was a battle and we knew we had to do that at different parts of the game,” said Baines. “It was tough and the quality wasn’t what we wanted it to be but we got the three points and we go home happy.”