BY ABAYOMI JOHNSON
Long-standing Everton first choice, Tim Howard, has hailed Phil Jagielka’s leadership qualities.
Having skippered his country on a number of occasions, American Howard recognises it takes a special breed to be the figurehead of a team.
And he insists few men are suited to the role like the 32-year-old England international.
He told evertonfc.com: “Everyone wants to be king but very few want to wear that crown. A leader has to be there in tough times and sometimes put the team on his back, which is what Jags did last year.
“There are some good potential candidates [in the Everton squad]. There are some guys within this group who are responsible, who work hard, and who say the right things. But it takes time to develop as a leader.
“You have to be selfless. You have to take the highs and the lows. You can’t hide – you have to be at the forefront. It’s almost like being an actor. When times are tough you have to put on a brave face and motivate every individual in the room. You have to make sure everyone is pulling in the right direction.
“When times are really good you have to figure out what that formula is and try and mimic it every single day.
“When you are a leader you have to be the one pressing the buttons.”
Jagielka last week committed his long-term future to the Club by penning a one-year extension to his existing deal – an arrangement that now keeps him at Goodison Park until the summer of 2018.
Though Jagielka looks set to remain in possession of the armband for the foreseeable future, Howard also believes there are a number of younger players who can benefit from the current skipper’s guidance with a view to one day taking over the mantle.
James McCarthy has previously been tipped to be amongst those who could succeed the influential Jagielka and Howard was full of praise for the form the Republic of Ireland star showed in the latter half of the last campaign.
“James is a classic number six,” he said. “He gets involved, he breaks play up and he has one of the best engines I have seen for a long time.
“We have a group of very humble guys, who put their egos second and the team first. James certainly epitomises that. From day one when he first came through the door he has not said a lot and just let his performances speak for themselves.
“I cannot emphasise enough how important he is to our squad and the chemistry we have with the way he pushes us forward.”