PHIL JAGIELKA admits he was unsettled by summer speculation linking him with a move to Arsenal, after his goal-scoring return to top form against Wigan on Saturday.
The 29-year-old headed home his first Goodison Park goal in three-and-a-half years against the Latics, as Everton fought from behind to record their first home win of the Premier League season.
Jagielka cancelled out Franco Di Santo’s deflected opener before late goals from substitutes Apostolos Vellios and Royston Drenthe sealed a 3-1 victory.
The England defender had been widely tipped to join the Gunners before the transfer window closed, but Everton ultimately rejected Arsene Wenger’s advances.
Spanish playmaker Mikel Arteta eventually headed to the Emirates in a last-minute £10m switch, after Yakubu and Jermaine Beckford had also been sold.
Jagielka (right) says he found it tough to shrug off the discussion about his future. But he insists the Everton squad remains healthy, especially after the closure of the transfer window allowed everyone’s to return to football.
He said: “I was slightly affected because my name was in the papers a little bit. But I spoke to the manager a couple of times and he let me know what was going on. It was difficult. We were all a lot happier when the window shut.
“Unfortunately we had lost Mikel and Jermaine but that’s what we needed for the club to go forward. Hopefully we will have a good season and that will be the turning point.
“We’ve balanced the books and brought a couple of players in on loan who have done really well. We’ll go from there.
“It was difficult because I’m not used to speculation. There wasn’t a part of me that expected to go, so it wasn’t hard mentally. If I had wanted to go, I’m sure the gaffer would have expected me to kick up a fuss. But me and him had a chat and there was an understanding.
“He’ll probably tell you that it was the easiest transfer saga he’s dealt with. There was never an issue. I just would have liked it to have gone and that be the end of it.
“The squad doesn’t look that much weaker. Jack (Rodwell) is getting chances, for instance. As much as there has been turmoil, there hasn’t been much we could do about it. But it would be too easy for us to blame things like that for poor performances.
“When the lads go out on the pitch, nobody is thinking what the fans have been doing. We are just concentrating on football.”
Saturday’s win moved Everton up to seventh, improved by one place after Liverpool’s 4-0 loss at Tottenham Hotspur yesterday, and Jagielka says the Blues can take positives from a decent start to the season, even if they are still short of strikers.
“It’s probably been our best start for a while,” he said.
“But we know we have got a tough run of fixtures coming up and it will be hard to keep the points coming in.
“It’s good to have different people scoring, like Tolos getting his first. Royston got one too, Bainesy chipped in last week.
“We’d love to have to have a 20 goals a season man but I’m not sure that we have got that guy up front. It is really important that when we do put the ball in the danger area that we are not relying on one person to stick his neck out.”
Jagielka said his dancing goal celebration had been pre-planned with Tim Cahill before kick-off.
He said: “It’s The Inbetweeners. Me and Tim made a pact that if he scored, I’d back him up and if I scored, he said he’d back me up.
“I’m going to have to wait and see the video to see if he stuck to his word. If he hasn’t, he’s just made me look like a plonker.”