PHIL JAGIELKA might be a paid-up member of the centre half union – but the straight-talking England star admits there is a reason that strikers are football’s top-earning glamour men.
While David Moyes recently sympathised with Everton’s defenders, who have watched in frustration as the forwards have conspired to miss chance after chance, Jagielka is sympathetic to their plight.
The 28-year-old overcame injury to play an integral part in Everton’s much improved defensive display against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last weekend, and insists he now wants to help his team-mates atone for their last Goodison Park outing.
Jagielka bit his lip and faced the media after the Blues 4-1 defeat by West Brom in their last home game, claiming that crisis could bring the best out of the side.
But he is hoping for an all-round much happier afternoon when Roberto Martinez’s Wigan Athletic come to Merseyside tomorrow.
He said: “The atmosphere at the home games when you start missing chances can get understandably frustrated. The fans get annoyed and the groans get louder and louder, especially when you waste as many as we have.
“It does become energy sapping for defenders. But then you realise there is probably a reason why strikers get paid the most at clubs, because it’s probably the hardest thing to do.
“The pressure is on them and they are the first port of call to get the stick when things don’t work out.”
Supporters have had to take any positives they can in recent months as Everton have dropped out of the top half of the table, and hover just above relegation. So the form of Jagielka, and his central defensive partner Sylvain Distin, has brought some winter cheer.
“It’s been good. You’ll laugh but even in the 4-1 against West Brom, when we lost Mikel and kept two up front to chase a result, I think we defended well in the circumstances,” says the former Sheffield United player, who won his sixth England cap during the recent defeat by France at Wembley.
“Over the last month me and Sylv have felt a lot better. But it’s definitely important that as a team we get that consistency.
“We are as frustrated as anyone else that we cannot put a string of results together at the moment. We get a result like against Stoke – or a good draw like at Stamford Bridge – and then go and shoot ourselves in the foot.”
David Moyes admitted before the 1-1 draw with Chelsea, that some of his senior players could have become overly familiar with his motivational words, something clearly refuted in private by the players.
Jagielka believes his manager’s ability to inspire is undiminished, but is concerned that another slow start to the season had made Moyes’ job even harder.
He said: “The gaffer will know more than us about his concerns over the motivational words. But I don’t think motivation has been a factor as much as confidence. It doesn’t need much motivation if the team is doing well. It’s easier to point the finger at mistakes when things aren’t panning out as planned.
“We normally have a slow start, but then there is always that lift-off and for some reason we had another bad start this year.
“I think we started the season playing well, but then when the points didn’t add up and we didn’t kick on it got into a mini crisis.
“When you don’t turn the corner as quickly as you’d like it can become alarming. The gaffer might have found it harder to keep the motivational stuff going for the two or three months he has had to.
“We have been making similar mistakes in games, not scoring, and it must be hard for him to not sound like a broken record.”
Everton’s next test after the home clash with third-from-bottom Wigan tomorrow, is a tricky away journey to Manchester City.
Jagielka and Co can expect to have their hands full keeping Roberto Mancini’s top men Carlos Tevez and David Silva quiet, but one man he is unlikely to line up against is former team-mate and friend Joleon Lescott.
The two remain good pals, and Jagielka is quick to defend the former Goodison defender’s post-Everton career, as rumours circled that Lescott will seek first team football via a move away from Eastlands in January.
“Obviously in hindsight you can say it hasn’t worked” says Jagielka.
“But the manager (at City) changed and the new manager they brought in is always going to like his own players.
“Unfortunately for Joleon he couldn’t prove himself when Mancini came in because he was injured, and so the manager brought new players in ahead of him.
“When your confidence is high and you’ve been keeping clean sheets for months, then a big money move happens, it’s good.
“Joleon played something like the first 25 games when he went there, and he did OK.
“He could hold his head up high, but since then he just hasn’t had the opportunity. That’s why these rumours have surfaced about him seeking a move away for first team football.”