Phil Jagielka has missed only one Premier League match this season – but Everton boss Roberto Martinez insists: “I don’t take him for granted.”
The Blues captain was the derby hero when they met Liverpool at Anfield in September after scoring an injury-time equaliser.
Jagielka stunned the Kop with a half volley from outside the area to cancel out Steven Gerrard’s free-kick in the dying seconds.
He sat out the trip to Newcastle on December 28 with an ankle injury which forced him off in the Boxing Day defeat by Stoke, but he has played every minute of every other league game.
And the England defender was back to his best last Saturday as Everton won for the first time in nine matches with a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace.
Martinez says he cannot place a value on Jagielka’s importance to the team.
“I cannot speak highly enough of Jagielka, and not just in terms of the way he has been performing,” said Martinez.
“That is clear for everyone to see and the way he has taken the captain’s role and made it second nature.
Phil Jagielka scores for Everton against Liverpool in September
“He takes responsibility with ease and I can see him enjoying his football and I can see him enjoying his role at the club. It is probably the best moment of his career.
“I don’t take Phil Jagielka for granted, I know how important he is for us.”
Jagielka, who will be playing his 15th Merseyside derby, told the ECHO this week how he has no concerns over Everton’s young players being able to handle to pressure of facing the Reds.
Martinez says their self-belief is in part down to the guidance offered by senior players such as the 32-year-old.
“If he sees the young players doing well then part of it is because of the way he, and the other senior lads, have given them a real confidence and calmness and real support,” the Everton manager added.
“That is what has always been important about us – having a really experience and strong group but with young players in there that is going to give us a strong, unknown quantity.”
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Steven Naismith was equally as fulsome in his praise and says when times are hard, Jagielka comes to the fore.
“He led by example at Palace and that is what captains do,” Naismith told the ECHO.
“He is somebody who, ever since I’ve been at the club, who digs deep and will always show what it means to be at Everton and what it means to play for them.
“Bainesy is another one who, maybe not as vocal, but he leads by example, is so professional and is such a top player that you can’t not learn from him.
“The way he plays drives you to be better.”
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