‘This will be like playing for the Blades again’

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Phil Jagielka is anticipating today’s Battle of Britain Euro 2012 clash at the Millennium Stadium will be a throwback to his Championship days.

Jagielka spent eight years and played 287 games for Sheffield United, all but one season of which was in English football’s second tier.

So the 28-year-old Everton man is not being disparaging when he suggests England’s eagerly-awaited encounter with Wales in Cardiff is likely to bring back a few memories.

“It will be unlike any international game I have played in before,” said Jagielka.

“It can be a little bit slow some times, fast for 10 minutes, slow for five. This one could literally be end-to-end.

“Gary Speed has not been in charge for a long time. This will be a great game for him to put a marker down for Welsh football and it could end up more like a Championship game.”

As that is where Wales draw many of the players from - and they lost a stellar name yesterday when Gareth Bale was ruled out with a hamstring injury - Jagielka could be accused of adopting a superior attitude.

Except he isn’t like that, which is why his comments about the current Wales team should be analysed beyond the initial seemingly inflammatory words.

“Probably only three or four of their players would be in our squad,” he conceded.

“But how many of the USA team would? Not many. Australia. Same again. But those teams are highly ranked.

“On paper we are massive favourites. But the game is not won on paper, is it?”

It certainly was not Jagielka’s intention to stir up any indignation, he is far too polite for that, almost deferential.

Although he has just signed a new four-year contract with the Toffeemen and started every international he has been fit for this season, Jagielka still seems to doubt himself.

“Rather than hoping for a text, maybe I’ll get to the level where I’m expecting one,” he said.

“I’ve not had a horrific season but I have not had the best season for Everton.

“I probably won’t be in our top five players this year, which is disappointing.”

Jagielka’s status for club and country suggests he is better than that.

It seems likely that he rather than Tottenham’s Michael Dawson - who has experienced Champions League combat this season - will partner skipper John Terry in a team from which Frank Lampard appears increasingly likely to be discarded.

Maybe that reluctance to thrust himself forward is one of the reasons why David Moyes is pushing Jagielka’s cause, and encouraging the defender to be more vociferous.

More like Wales striker Craig Bellamy, in fact.

“I’d like him in our changing room,” said Jagielka.

“A lot of the time people don’t want to hear it and sometimes it might be a bit cutting or hurtful.

“But he doesn’t shout for the sake of it, he shouts because things need to be said.”