THE long walk along the Finch Farm corridor towards David Moyes’ office can be daunting for even the boldest of players, depending on why they’re about to disturb the scheming Scotsman.
Whether it’s to enquire about why they’ve been dropped, discuss a new contract, or simply add their input to a tactical debate, footballers tend not to relish challenging sit-downs with the man in charge.
That’s why at most clubs the role of captain is about much more than just wearing an armband and barking orders on the pitch.
The skipper can be a mediator between the dressing room and coaching staff, diplomat, counsellor, negotiator and motivator.
While club captain Phil Neville was recuperating from knee surgery this season, Phil Jagielka was tasked with stepping into his shoes and the England defender admits he loved every minute of it – even if he is still fully coming to terms with everything the role entails.
“I’ve never been one to be keen to walk into the manager’s office myself and I’m no young whipper snapper,” says Jagielka, reflecting on the occasional need for a captain to help younger players approach the gaffer.
“I’ve always found it easier talking to the assistant or the captain because the manager has often got enough to think about and the last thing you want to do as a player is create more problems for him over something that’s not that important.
“But the manager pulled me in and said when Phil (Neville) is not going to be here you have to step up to the plate and be my captain. Me and Phil are different characters but at the same time we’ll both try and do our best when we do the job.
“As most of the lads will tell you I’m pretty loud as it is so it’s not as if I’ve suddenly had to higher the decibels.
“I’d like to think the lads can speak to me as much as they need to, that’s important. It’s something I need to carry on adapting to and hopefully as the captaincy comes my way on a more permanent basis it’s something I’ll look forward to.
“I feel like if any of the lads wanted to know what I think before, perhaps they needed to approach the manager, I could push them in the right direction.”
Jagielka admits that for the six-game spell when he wore the armband he enjoyed the variety of roles involved in the task, even if he never felt like the outright skipper.
“I wouldn’t say I had the full scope of the role because Phil is our captain, and walks about the place as our captain even when he’s injured. If there are any problems he’s the one who always sorts things out.
“But obviously stuff like notes to the matchday programme, talking during team meetings and during a game was a role I’ve had to get used to.
“I talk as much as I need to when I’m on the pitch anyway, but it was just a case of remembering to grab the ball boy or ball girl when we go out and take them to the centre circle.
“It’s little things like before the match, you lose five minutes of preparation time because you have to go into the referees room, but it’s nothing to write home about or that gives me sleepless nights.
“I was the vice-captain at Sheffield United so it was a role I was a little bit familiar with, even though I was quite young.”
The 30-year-old admits he has never been shy to air his opinion in team-meetings anyway.
“I always get told to shut up by the rest of the lads during the meetings!” he says. “I’ve always had my opinion whether it’s at defensive meetings or full team meetings, and maybe that’s partially the reason why I was chosen for the role.
“You don’t just get made captain because you’ve been here a certain amount of time. It’s a role that is chosen carefully.
“But there’s plenty of experience in our defence and it’s an open discussion. It’s not just for the vice captain or captain. Sylvain (Distin) would be a perfect captain too – a great guy off the pitch, you can come and see him.
“We’ve got plenty of little leaders amongst us which helps the day to day running.”