England's Phil Jagielka relishing return to his ancestral homeland
FOOTBALL: Phil Jagielka admits he could have been turning out for Poland at Euro 2012 but says he would never have turned down the chance to represent England at a major tournament.
Thursday 31 May 2012, 03:51PM
Jagielka’s life has turned upside down in the last few days after a major change of events has forced him to re-arrange his summer plans.
The Everton defender was planning a golf trip to Portugal this weekend after he was left out of the original 23-man England squad and was only put on the standby list by new manager Roy Hodgson.
But with Gareth Barry being ruled out with an abdominal injury which he suffered during the 1-0 win over Norway on Saturday, Jagielka has now been handed a late reprieve and will be pushing John Terry and Gary Cahill for a starting place in the England defence at his first major tournament.
It could have been a different story for Jagielka had he chosen to follow the path of his Polish grandparents who moved to England at the end of World War II.
Poland would have jumped at the chance to have secured the services of Jagielka, but the 29-year-old revealed he would not have felt comfortable playing in a team where he struggles to understand the language.
Although Jagielka’s father speaks fluent Polish, he can only speak a few words and could never have imagined playing for anyone else but England.
“I could have played for Poland but I don’t see myself as Polish. I was born in England. I speak with an English accent,” he said.
“Thankfully I got to play for England. Maybe if I’d been nowhere near the team I might have done, but I don’t know if I’d have felt comfortable joining up with the squad.
“I’d have been a bit of a loner, I don’t speak the language or know about the culture.
“My grandparents moved over in about 1948, via Africa, and settled in Weaverham. My grandad died just before I was born, hence the middle name (Nikodem).
“My grandma, my babcha, lives in Weaverham, Cheshire now. My dad lives there too. She’ll be happy to see me go back to Poland. My dad speaks Polish but I can only manage the odd hello and goodbye. I’m not telling the lads that because I don’t want to get stitched up.”
It is something of a fairytale return for Jagielka who seemed certain to be part of Fabio Capello’s squad for the World Cup back in 2010 before a ruptured cruciate ligament in April 2009 forced him to miss the showpiece event.
Jagielka has shown he can compete against the best players in the world after helping England record a 1-0 victory against world and defending European champions Spain in Capello’s last home game in charge back in November 2011.
The talented defender was just starting to force his way into the England set-up when the Italian coach left his post back in February.
Jagielka admits he was disappointed to see Capello leave the job and now hopes he can show Hodgson that he is good enough to be a first-team regular.
Jagielka added: “When he (Capello) left it was a little bit gutting. I felt I was third or fourth choice, the next in line to play. Unfortunately, due to managerial changes, injuries, whatever, I’ve dropped down the pecking order.
“It was a bit frustrating. I felt that I’d half-proved to Fabio what I could do. I had a broken toe and he asked me to play in the Spain game and I felt that if I got over that hurdle I was pretty much in his squad.
“Obviously stuff happened and the things changed so I wasn’t particularly happy to hear he’d left his role. But I was happy to be around the squad when it got announced.”
Although several high profile names including Michael Carrick and Micah Richards have turned down the chance to be on the standby list for England, Jagielka admits he would never turn down that opportunity.
“I can’t comment on what other people want to do. It’s their life and whatever choice they want to make. But the way football is now, it’s a squad game.
“He (the manager) offered me a chance to play against Norway. If I’d said ‘No’, at 29, I might as well have said I was retiring from international football. And I don’t see myself doing that.”