The issue of leadership has been a thorny one at Everton FC of late.
As the Blues waded through their worst run of league form for a decade they appeared to be failing their character test.
Too easily were Everton slumping to defeats. Too easily were too many players appearing to give up. And all too quickly.
But what had been a team problem quickly became a personal one.
Kevin Mirallas decided to usurp Leighton Baines as penalty taker against West Brom and his subsequent miss prompted an outpouring of rage.
Fingers were pointed at Mirallas, Roberto Martinez but then at Phil Jagielka.
As the conspiracy theorists said the penalty debacle was the latest sign of a fractured dressing room they began to question Jagielka’s suitability to be captain of Everton.
But after having his abilities as a leader doubted Jagielka went to Crystal Palace and showed that he is still made of the right stuff.
The Blues needed their skipper to be strong, resilient and to ensure they had a rock solid centre after being such a soft touch of late.
Jagielka provided all of that and more.
He led a united front and, maybe, because Everton were in such desperate need of a win, the skipper’s efforts felt colossal.
After the numbers were crunched we learnt that Jagielka won three quarters of his tackles, won four out of seven headers and made 16 clearances yet you left Selhurst Park feeling like he’d won everything.
It made you wonder whether his captaincy at Goodison is undervalued and whether the criticism has been undue.
Either way, Saturday was a timely reminder of his mettle.
Roberto Martinez recently spoke about Everton having to go “back to basics”, well, this was an old school centre-half’s performance from the captain.
The kind Jagielka relishes.
And the type Everton needed because a win was so desperately needed.
Beforehand, Martinez had said Palace were more than a team that lumped balls into the box but Everton were forced to deal with countless crosses.
The challenge Jagielka and the Blues backline will face against Liverpool this coming weekend will be different, of course.
They will have to deal with the pace of Raheem Sterling and the movement of Daniel Sturridge and less of the direct approach Palace took, but their performance was a confidence booster.
It wasn’t always pretty but the Blues were effective and, bar a few opening wobbles, they always had them at arms length.
The closest the home side came was quickly after Romelu Lukaku had bundled the Blues in front.
Dwight Gayle nipped in ahead of Joel Robles but Jagielka was the last line of defence and hooked the ball away.
It set the tone for his and Everton’s day. They were not to be denied.
By a matter of inches the ball stayed out but Everton have known all too well about the fine margins this season and how they have often fallen on the wrong side of them.
The skipper’s salvage job felt a watershed moment. In the game and, maybe, in their season.
Confidence has been brittle of late and who knows what impact an immediate equaliser in front of a raucous Selhurst Park would’ve done for the Blues self-belief.
Now Everton are looking forward to the derby instead of fearing it.
Jagielka’s heroics reminded some of the day Alan Stubbs did similar on the same ground over a decade ago to deny Andy Johnson.
Behind at the time, Everton went onto to win that game and, as one report said, it helped “lift the gloom” around Goodison. It turned out to be some season after that.
The lofty ambitions Martinez set out at the beginning of the season have been forced to be revised.
It has been the bottom three, and not the top four, that has been preoccupying Blues fans of late.
Everton haven’t solved all of their problems with one win in south London but Saturday’s victory at least offered relief and hope for the final third of the campaign.
The game also cemented the belief that Jagielka and John Stones are by far and away the Blues best centre-half pairing.
Debate continues to rage over Everton’s best combinations elsewhere on the pitch but the answer is crystal clear at the back.
The alliance of Jagielka’s experience and Stones’ fearlessness and class works for the Blues. The brawn and brains, so to speak.
And in Stones, who was not far behind the standards set by Jagielka at Selhurst Park, they have a future captain of this club.
His critics say he needs to work on the basics of defending. He did little wrong at the weekend but Jagielka is the perfect mentor for that.
But as Stones continues to learn and grow, the same can be said of Jagielka.
This season has been one of searching questions and, at times, acute scrutiny.
He does not fit the prototype of a Martinez defender. Jagielka is not that smooth operator who is comfortable carrying the ball out from the back and delivering defensive splitting passes.
Stones fits that mould far more comfortably and his threaded through-ball for Steven Naismith was a thing of weighted beauty, but he too looks at his captain with admiration.
Saturday was a huge game for Everton and Jagielka delivered a performance fitting of the occasion.
He’s proved himself a derby hero once already this season and after this performance Jagielka look in the mood to lead the way again.
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