By Matt Farr
Everton defender Phil Jagielka admits he must prove to Ronald Koeman that he can be a useful long-term asset and remain at the club next season.
The 34-year-old has made 25 appearances in all competitions for Everton this season, but faced an uphill battle to regain his place in the first-team at the halfway point of the campaign.
Jagielka was dropped to the bench following the 1-0 defeat to Southampton on November 27, but made just three further appearances from his next 14 Premier League matches.
However, after being reinstated to the starting eleven in the absence of the injured Ramiro Funes Mori, who was ruled out for the season, Jagielka has played every minute of Everton’s last nine league games, scoring three goals.
He still has one year left to run on his current deal at Goodison Park, but after falling down the pecking order in the winter, the England international was linked with a move away from the club.
The Daily Mail reported in January that Premier League rivals Sunderland and West Ham had both held talks with the player’s representatives over a potential move, but no concrete offer surfaced.
With speculation likely to resume in the summer transfer window, Jagielka has delivered his own verdict on his future at the club, suggesting that he still has a role to play.
Speaking at the club’s end of season awards on Tuesday, he told Sky Sports: “It’s not really about me and what I hope. I’ll get time off like the rest of the lads and prepare myself for pre-season and see where the land lies.
“Obviously I’m delighted to be here, I’ve been here a long time now. I’ve got at least one more year on my contract and I feel as though I’ve got a lot more football in me.
“It’s up to me to come back in pre-season and prove to the manager that I’m not too bad and hopefully stick around. I’m looking forward to coming back all guns blazing and fighting to keep my place in the team.”
Everton have also been linked with a move for a new central defender this summer, which could see Jagielka fall even further down the pecking order.
But the veteran defender has vast experience on offer, and could be a valuable squad player for Koeman to keep around, at least until the end of his current deal.
Jagielka and Everton still have two matches left to play this season, first against Watford at Goodison Park on Friday, before a trip to Arsenal for the Premier League finale.
In other Everton transfer news, the Toffees reportedly lead the chase for this 19-goal midfielder after bid sanctioned.