After a chat with Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer of 2004, Phil Neville knew that his Manchester United career was over. His manager couldn’t guarantee him first-team football anymore and he encouraged him to go elsewhere to obtain it.
Say what you want about Neville (many opposition fans do), but he has been a good captain for Everton in his eight years at the club. The former Manchester United man has received some stick from supporters, but David Moyes has stuck by his skipper through thick and thin. Sometimes the manager has been too loyal, with Neville’s abject performance in the FA Cup quarterfinal defeat against Wigan being the most obvious example.
But Neville’s selection in that particular game points to one of two things. Either Moyes selected him because he really values Neville’s leadership qualities. Or perhaps the manager thinks there is a lack of players in the squad capable of leading this Everton side. I would like to think it is the former.
This is mainly down to the performances Phil Jagielka has been putting in in recent weeks. The England centre-half has always been the most common recipient of the armband in Neville’s absence; now it looks as though the job will be his on a full-time basis.
In the past, the captaincy has burdened Jagielka, with the Everton playing staff clearly missing Neville’s influence and organizational skills. But this season has seen a change in the former Sheffield United man. When he has worn the armband it seems to have galvanised him, especially in the past few weeks in which he has put in some exceptional defensive displays.
He might not be as vocal as Neville, but Everton have plenty of players on the pitch who can be heard. It is a common misconception that this is a key quality for a captain. But some captains don’t have to bellow and berate their way through 90 minutes.
Some inspire through their performances, and there is no better example of this than Liverpool's captain just across Stanley Park. Jagielka, while not being anywhere near the level of captain that Steven Gerrard is yet, will look to replicate this type of leadership. Like Gerrard, Jagielka has a quietly authoritative presence on the field that can inject confidence into his teammates.
The Everton captain-elect looks ready for the responsibility. He has been at the club for six years and is clearly a popular figure with the fans and his teammates. Looking at him solely as a player, there are not many better centre-backs around.
Jagielka is 30 years old now and is one of Everton’s most experienced campaigners. He has plenty of years left in him to be considered as a long-term captain. Giving the armband to someone like Leighton Baines or Darron Gibson would be a bold decision from Moyes, but neither have had experience captaining a team in the Premier League.
Leon Osman is another candidate being put forward by some, but when Neville has been out of the side, Moyes has always given the responsibility to Jagielka over Osman. It would be an enormous shock for the Scot to go against that trend.
The club is bracing itself for raids on their most high-profile stars this summer, while the uncertainty surrounding Moyes’ future rumbles on. An offseason of transition seemingly lies in wait for the Toffees. But Jagielka leading the side for the rest of this season and into the next one must remain a constant.
What do you think? Is Jagielka Ready? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter @MattJFootball
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