This is the tenth instalment in Football FanCast’s Legacies series, which pays tribute to those players and managers who leave a compelling story behind as they move on to pastures new.
Phil Jagielka left Everton and rejoined Sheffield United earlier this summer after reaching the end of his contract with the Toffees.
The club captain’s exit marked the end of a 12-year-career on Merseyside, where he certainly made a wonderful impact on and off the pitch.
In a somewhat poetic turn of events, Jagielka’s career has gone full circle by rejoining the Blades, who have returned to the Premier League after a 12 year absence.
But what is Jagielka’s Everton legacy and how will he be remembered at Goodison Park?
Jagielka was signed in 2007 by David Moyes after impressing throughout Sheffield United’s one-season stay in the Premier League in the 2006/07 campaign.
His time in the top flight was cut short when West Ham secured a 1-0 win at Old Trafford to secure their own place in the following season’s competition, but the 10 months of action was enough time to convince a top flight outfit to sign him in the summer.
That season yielded 38 league appearances with nine clean sheets, one of those being a 1-0 win at home to Arsenal, where Jagielka himself had to play in goal after the dismissal of his goalkeeper.
The move to Everton eventually came and he was thrown straight into the starting XI, a position he held under both Moyes and Roberto Martinez’s tenures.
In 2015-16, though, Jagielka’s importance began to dwindle.
That season saw him make 21 league appearances, his lowest tally since his injury-hit 09/10 campaign.
He didn’t reach more than 30 appearances again after that year, though his 20+ showings proved he still had something to offer.
He would go on to make appearances under Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce before leaving under the watch of Marco Silva. In that time Everton’s best finish was 5th place, with an FA Cup final defeat against Chelsea the closest he came to silverware.
In Jagielka’s 12 years at Everton he was able to register at least a goal a season, showing he wasn’t the most lethal in front of goal, not in the same way other defenders have been, like Virgil van Dijk, who’s registered six goals himself in all competitions for the red half of Liverpool.
Of course, Jagielka wasn’t signed for his prowess in the final-third. If you look at his defensive stats, they’re far more impressive. In his Premier League career he’s helped his sides to a total of 107 clean sheets, 98 of them at Everton, with 698 tackles and a tackle success rate of 76%.
There’s one moment in particular that stands out above the rest when looking back at Jagielka’s fine Everton career.
The Merseyside derby has always been of huge importance to the people of Liverpool. It’s a local derby separated by just 0.8 miles of land, and it’s one that carries so much emotional weight.
Everton have got a pretty horrendous record in the derby, especially at Anfield. The Toffees haven’t beaten their rivals since a 2-0 win in 2010, and haven’t won away at the Reds’ since 1999.
On September 27th, just months after Liverpool lost their best chance at a Premier League title to Manchester City, Jagielka stepped up to deliver a moment of derby day genius.
Steven Gerrard had given Liverpool a 1-0 lead, and in the first minute of stoppage time, the Everton centre-back hit the ball as sweetly as he could with a stunning half-volley, and the ball darted into the top right-hand corner of the net, sending a stunned away contingent into delirium.
It was the kind of strike that arrives once in a goal-shy centre-back’s career, yet Jagielka managed to muster up this once in a blue moon moment against Everton’s fiercest rival. They don’t come much sweeter than that.
Everton are a huge football club. Fans have been privileged to see legends like Andy Gray, Kevin Sheedy and Alan Ball. Can we really say Phil Jagielka should be included in the debate for all-time-greats? Few would argue in his favour.
He was always reliable, always available and accepted his time on the sidelines when it came around.
Ultimately, he’ll always be remembered and appreciated by the Everton faithful, even if his days at Goodison didn’t quite bring about the growth and evolution he’d hoped for.
Regardless, Jagielka was a strong-willed and high-performing individual who showed loyalty and dedication to the badge, leaving those perched on Goodison Park seats with an ever-present figurehead to genuinely trust.