Jagielka spots opening in defence

Phil Jagielka wants to prove he is the answer to Roy Hodgson’s defensive headache as England prepare to embark on what the Everton centre-back describes as a “great new era”.

With Rio Ferdinand confirming his international retirement and John Terry seemingly out of the equation for good, Hodgson now has a pool of five defenders from which he must mould a centre-half pairing that is good enough to perform at the World Cup.

Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have struggled with injury this season and Joleon Lescott has not played regularly at Manchester City, leaving Jagielka and Chelsea’s Gary Cahill as the front-runners for the two vacant spots.

Jagielka is probably in pole position because he has had yet another excellent season at Everton.

The 30-year-old has not played for his country since October due to injury, however, and given that Hodgson has rotated his squad so much — he has used six different defensive pairings in the last eight games — the Everton defender knows his ticket to Rio 2014 is far from assured.

“We don’t really know what the starting 11 will be so it’s all about putting down a marker this week,” said Jagielka ahead of England’s friendlies against the Republic of Ireland and Brazil.

“Obviously they can look at your club form before that, but this is the time to impress the manager and the coaching staff.

“There are no points available, but I’m sure everyone will be trying to cement their place ahead of the games in August and September.

“Previous players nailed down that position for three or four years so it will be interesting.”

Although Ferdinand has not played for England for just under two years, the fact he had not officially announced his international retirement until earlier this month meant he was always a talking point whenever Hodgson named his squads.

The four England players in the current party have just 60 caps between them, but Jagielka thinks every one of them is competent enough to form part of the team’s backbone at next year’s World Cup — should they qualify.

He added: “That shows the strength in depth we have at centre-half.

“I suppose it does feel a bit like the start of a new era.

“I don’t think Rio and JT have played for England for a while now so you could argue that the a new era started months ago.

“There is a good blend between youth and older players, so it will be nice for us to have the start of a great new era and hopefully we can progress as a team.”

Much has been made of England’s visit to Rio at the weekend, but because of the history between the two countries, tomorrow’s fixture against Giovanni Trapattoni’s team promises to be a feisty affair.

“Sometimes when you get friendlies they are more like testimonials, but I’m pretty sure that between England and Ireland it won’t be the case,” Jagielka said.

One man who definitely won’t be slotting in beside Jagielka is Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker, who was yesterday ruled out of both games with a leg injury.

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