Belfast Telegraph

Warnock tips return of vintage Jag

Neil Warnock has backed Phil Jagielka to answer his critics in the only way he knows how - with full-blooded performances for both Everton and England.

The 32-year-old defender played in the opening two games of England's ill-fated World Cup campaign alongside Chelsea's Gary Cahill but has since lost his place to Phil Jones.

Jagielka has also come under fire for some below-par displays at the heart of the Toffees defence as Roberto Martinez's side have shipped 10 goals in the early weeks of the Barclays Premier League season.

But Warnock, who takes his Crystal Palace team to Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon, has backed the man he brought into professional football at Sheffield United 14 years ago to show he can still cut it in the Barclays Premier League.

"I think he's just got to be proud of what he's achieved really," Warnock said of his former Blades skipper.

"I had him as a lad and they were telling me he was a right-back or a central midfield player and together we found a position for him. To see him playing at the World Cup was a fantastic achievement for him and he's a smashing lad with a lovely family.

"The answer to the critics is what he did in the Europa League against Wolfsburg. I thought he was superb and that's the way to answer people, by turning out and playing.

"I'm sure the Everton fans might be even happier if he doesn't get picked for England because he does a wonderful job for Everton and has done for many years. I remember talking to David (Moyes) and Arsene Wenger and said, 'If we (Sheffield United) do get relegated then he's the one you want to sign'.

"He's just a level-headed lad. He'll not even bother about any criticism or anything, he just turns up for training each day.

"Managers have first names on the team sheet every week and he's one of those and Roberto is lucky to have him. He's a fabulous player and he'd get in every team in the Premier League, I think."

The 4-1 victory over Wolfsburg saw Everton win on their return to European competition as Martinez looks set to field strong teams in an attempt to challenge for Europa League glory.

That could lead to tiredness in Premier League fixtures immediately following Europa League exploits, but Warnock does not feel it is something his side will benefit from this weekend.

"Roberto is taking it on board and they would love to win the competition," Warnock said.

"With Everton's players, their feet are all on the ground and there is no-one above themselves and that makes for a great dressing room.

"I would imagine every one of them would want to play on Sunday who played last night - when you're playing well like they are, you want to play against the lesser sides if you like, you quite fancy it.

"Likewise I think our lads will be looking forward to it because Goodison is a great stage."

Whether Jagielka will retain his place for the visit of Warnock's Palace on Sunday is unclear, as is the availability of Eagles forward Marouane Chamakh.

The Morocco international has been sidelined with a hamstring issue and, although Warnock will give him every chance to prove his fitness, he will not take unnecessary risks with a player he believes is invaluable to his ambitions this campaign.

"Chamakh is training, he has trained the last few days," Warnock said.

"We will probably leave him until the last minute. It is only three weeks since the injury for Chamakh and he is an important player for us.

"I don't want to take a chance if it means there is a risk of losing him for six weeks so we will play it by ear with the physios and Chamakh.

"He has got a chance. He has trained the last two days and hasn't felt anything, but in a game you can do something without thinking about it."

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