PHIL JAGIELKA is facing a fight to win back a first team place at Everton – in time to book a place on England’s plane to the European Championship finals this summer.
The Blues defender was left out of David Moyes’ starting line-up for the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Liverpool, after playing in the Blues’ three previous Premier League appearances.
And Everton have just five Premier League games left between now and the end of the season when the squad for Poland the Ukraine will be selected.
Jagielka is prepared to bide his time, despite suffering the heartache of missing another Wembley appearance with the Blues.
“If my role is to keep John and Sylvain playing as well as they can – or to give them a rest for a game – I’ll do that,” he said.
“It’s not ideal for me, but we are part of a team and a squad that want to do well.”
Jagielka famously scored the winning penalty kick in Everton’s last Wembley semi-final appearance in 2009, but injury cruelly robbed of him a Cup Final place against Chelsea.
He was on the sidelines again last weekend, watching from the substitutes’ bench as Liverpool came from behind to triumph 2-1.
A knee injury sustained against Bolton on January 4 sidelined Jagielka for two months, and since then he has seen Johnny Heitinga and Sylvain Distin forge an impressive central defensive partnership.
In the eight games the pair have played together since Distin returned from a hamstring injury on February 4, the Blues have conceded just four goals.
While it was Distin’s error at Wembley on Saturday which handed Liverpool a route back into a semi-final Everton led, David Moyes must now decide whether to leave out a player who has otherwise been consistently reliable and recall Jagielka, or stick with the Heitinga-Distin partnership and leave Jagielka sweating.
The England international won his 10th cap in the victory over world champions Spain last November – but didn’t figure in the subsequent friendlies against Sweden and Holland.
While England remain managerless Jagielka will not be overly concerned for his international future, but he will want as much first team match practice as possible ahead of a tournament where he could be facing Europe’s finest forwards.
England have friendlies against Norway and Belgium before they kick-off their European campaign against France on June 11 in Donetsk, before meeting Sweden in Kiev and then the host nation, Ukraine, in Donetsk again.