AS EVERTON players they are used to belated success – so it was a case of better late than never when Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines were reunited in the England camp.
The pair made the cut, in Jagielka’s case right to the wire, for Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2012 squad which was confirmed yesterday, and although neither is guaranteed to start when the action gets underway, they performed like seasoned internationals under the national media spotlight.
Everton’s dynamic duo were given press conference duties by the Three Lions boss, and Jagielka said he is hoping the man who revived his personal tournament dream can also provide the “the missing ingredient” for the nation’s hopes.
From a sense of stoic individual disappointment at missing out to sudden excitement, he is now looking forward to his first major tournament with his country, and hoping Hodgson can end England’s 46-year wait for a trophy even if he accepts expectation levels are lower than ever.
Jagielka said: “I’m sure if we win a game, we will be favourites and, if we lose, we will be regarded as a waste of space.
“It would be better for the squad if there was a little bit less expectation on us.
“Hopefully we can go under the radar until the latter stages of the tournament and get further than we have done before.
“If we are being realistic, we haven’t won anything for a number of years now and maybe that is because we don’t deserve to.
“Hopefully this time around we can perform a little bit better and see where it takes us.”
Hodgson enjoyed previous international success with Switzerland and Jagielka believes he can quickly make his mark on the squad.
He said: “I think he can impose his ideas, the tactical knowledge and how he wants the team to shape up and how he wants us to play.
“We’ve all been playing for a number of years. It’s not like it is a new game for us but he can put his thoughts across on the training ground.
“He and Ray Lewington will be out on the training ground getting us to play the way they want us to play.
“Hopefully they can find the missing ingredient to put us through to the latter stages of the tournament.”
Jagielka has been called up by Hodgson after impressing during the 1-0 weekend friendly win in Norway.
He said: “It was disappointing not to be in the original 23 but the manager was very honest and up front with me.
“He said ’would you come and join up and be on standby and play a part in the Norway game and, if anything does happen you are in with a shot for going to the Euros?.’
“As it is, I got to play 90 minutes, which was fantastic, and a few days later I’ve made the 23.
“With Gareth Barry going out, I’m sure (Phil) Jones can play midfield if he needs to and it was always going to be a lottery of which player the manager chose.
“If you look at having two players for every position, we were one defender light and thankfully for me, I got the nod.”
England begin their tournament against France in Donetsk on June 11, and the last time the two nations met, with England losing 2-1, Jagielka played at right back.
However, the Sale-born defender was keen to play down the relevance of the November 2010 clash.
“I’m sure their squad will be quite similar to what it was back then and ours isn’t too different,” he said.
“But it’s going to be a slightly different atmosphere, slightly different onus on the game.
“Obviously it’s a tournament game rather than the friendly, we’ll need the points to top the table and go through.”
When asked whether England cannot afford to begin their campaign with a loss, Jagielka added: “Yeah I suppose so.
“We’ll be going out there to win the game but if we take a draw and get two good results and top the qualifying, we’ll take that just as much.”
During the press call, Baines also sidestepped questions regarding the safety of players’ families and fans during the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
The families of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have already indicated they will not make the journey amid fears of racial abuse.
And former England skipper Sol Campbell has warned those considering travelling that they face “coming back in a coffin” during the BBC’s Panorama programme, which highlighted racism and violence issues in the two countries.
“I didn’t see the programme but they are obviously pretty strong comments,” Baines said.
“Sol must feel strongly to say that. It will be down to the individual to decide if they are going out.
“I don’t know what each individual player in the squad and their family is doing.
“Hopefully we’ll get into the group stages and then hopefully the families can come out then.”