Everton captain Phil Jagielka has backed Michael Keane to be the cornerstone of the Blues’ defence for years to come.
Jagielka knows what the requirements are to cement your place at a club like Everton after becoming a mainstay in the side for over 10 years after his 2007 switch from Sheffield United.
Keane’s arrival in the summer of 2017 from Burnley saw him partner the skipper for much of his first season at Goodison Park and Jagielka has been impressed with what he has seen from the England international.
The former Burnley and Manchester United defender has become a key man for Marco Silva’s side, with his 105 aerial duels won ranking him seventh in the Premier League in the current campaign.
His 93 clearances put him 19th in the top-flight list – he’s 10th for headed clearances – while Keane has also made the most blocks (12) of any Everton player, and ranks second for interceptions.
Club captain Jagielka has been happy to see Keane flourishing at the Toffees and has backed him to continue his fine form.
Asked about whether Keane can emulate his own fine service for Everton, Jagielka said: “I’d like to think so. With his personality and the lad he is, as long as he keeps progressing as he is, I don’t see why not.
“Football has changed a lot since I came to Everton but it would be fantastic if Mike grows into the role and gets a bit more vocal on the pitch, which is something that comes with confidence and age.
“That [Keane being a key man for years to come] is what we all hope for.
“I think he felt at home and confident at Burnley. He has started to feel that way at Everton this season and it is translating into his performances on the pitch.
“Watching him in the game at Burnley on Boxing Day, I thought he was fantastic.”
Keane has found himself alongside a number of centre-back partners so far this season. Having opened the campaign alongside Jagielka at Wolves back in August, he has since joined summer signings Kurt Zouma and Yerry Mina.
Whoever gets the nod from Blues boss Silva knows they have the backing of their defensive colleagues, with Jagielka insisting those at the back push each other on to try to secure a clean sheet.
Skipper since 2013, Jagielka’s voice is often one of the most vocal within the dressing room.
“I speak to Mike, if there is any time he wants an odd conversation it is a simple and easy one,” he added.
“Being around the squad, your role is to remind them of their jobs, to keep them confident.
“As a defensive unit, first and foremost, we want a clean sheet. Then to potentially get a goal or assist to help the boys going forward.
“As a department, goalkeepers included, we are egging each other on to try to make sure we do those things.
“All the defenders speak and train together.
“Kurt [Zouma] speaks great English and Yerry [Mina] is learning day by day, he is doing a fantastic job of learning the language.”