EXCLUSIVE PHIL JAGIELKA COLUMN: Barkley back to his best

Phil Jagielka 10:09 25/03/2017
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  • Barkley and Jagielka in England training.

    This last week it’s been a little bit like a ghost town at our training ground, USM Finch Farm, due to the international break.

    For those of us who aren’t away on international duty the hard work still goes on and you continue with the tough sessions.

    But where we might normally have 7v7 out on the training pitch, we’ve had 3v3s at times this week, which just goes to show the strength in depth we have here at Everton with so many players away with their countries.

    Of course, I’ll be keeping a close eye on Ross Barkley in particular on Saturday. Ross found himself out of the England squad for a spell but he has dealt with it well, he’s hungry for it and hopefully he’ll get some good game time against Lithuania at Wembley and continue the ridiculously good form he has shown for us in the past few weeks.

    Ross was once again instrumental in our 4-0 victory over Hull City last weekend. That was our sixth home league win in a row and the atmosphere at Goodison is really positive at present.

    I think the football club has been buzzing ever since Ronald Koeman arrived as manager and that’s showing in our form.

    We had a great start to the season, we then had a bit of a dip, but ever since then it’s been really rosy and it’s great to be up there competing for the European places, which is something we expect as a club but unfortunately haven’t done in the last two seasons.

    Everton's next four games

    • Apr 1 - Liverpool (A)
    • Apr 4 - Man Utd (A)
    • Apr 9 - Leicester (H)
    • Apr 15 - Burnley (H)

    We look at the cup competitions and know we might have gone a bit further in those but the atmosphere, the way everything is evolving and the development of the club on the whole is great.

    We’ve got the support of our major shareholder Farhad Moshiri, the training ground is being upgraded, and we’re talking about a potential new stadium as well, so it’s all pointing towards taking the club to the next level.

    For me, personally, it’s been great to be back in the team for the last two games. The lads were doing really well and I understood there was no need to change things.

    Thankfully, though, I got my chance and we’ve won both matches I’ve played in and kept two clean sheets.

    I’ve been injured before and then had to come back in after a spell out and mentally it’s been tough because you’re out there training, putting in extra sessions and waiting for your chance.

    I’ve been in this game a while now and I knew it was a case of being patient, being ready and then getting out there and showing people what I can do when I got my chance.

    As for when the lads get back from international duty, there’s now nine games left to play, including a big one up next against Liverpool.

    Unfortunately, I was suspended when we lost in injury time to Liverpool at Goodison earlier in the season, but there was nothing between the two teams that night and we’ll head to Anfield with the confidence we’ve built since the turn of the year.

    Historically it’s been a difficult place for us to go but games aren’t won and lost on what’s happened previously. I’m sure Liverpool will be well aware of our abilities, and vice versa, and it will be nice to keep that momentum and confidence going and come out with a positive result.

    We just need to pick up as many points as possible between now and May and keep this progression going. We want to qualify for Europe, to lay down a marker for next season and, once we’ve done that, keep on building.