LIVERPOOL -- Roberto Martinez has reassured Everton captain Phil Jagielka that he will regain his place from the in-form John Stones when he gets the all-clear to resume playing.
Jagielka, 31, has not played for almost two months, having suffered a hamstring injury.
The England centre-back’s last appearance came in a 1-0 defeat at Chelsea in Feb. 22 -- and with Stones in his place, Everton have won every one of their seven league games since.
The 19-year-old has played a key role in a back line that has kept four clean sheets during that winning run, and he is set to keep his place for Wednesday night’s Premier League home game against Crystal Palace, as Everton continue with their push to finish in the top four.
The form of Stones has seen him linked with Chelsea and Arsenal, and prompted goalkeeper Tim Howard to suggest that Jagielka might have a job winning back his place, but Martinez insists that, when his captain is fully fit, he plays.
The manager said: “Absolutely. He’s our club captain. As soon as he’s ready, he’s straight back in the team. We need him immensely in that respect. He’s been very much influential, even when he hasn’t been on the pitch.
“He’s always had a real presence in the dressing room, he’s always had wise words of advice for the young players in the squad. He’s our club captain and we need him back on the pitch as quickly as we can.”
Martinez, though, is glad of the long-term selection puzzle he has been given by Stones, who signed for three million pounds from Championship side Barnsley in January 2013.
He said: “That’s the type of decision you want as a manager. You can never have enough good players, and you can never have enough players in good form.
“John Stones has been phenomenal. I think his position in the team is not going to be based on having other players back or not. It’s going to be based on how he feels, how his body is coping with this new experience.
“I would love to have that sort of problem, where I’ve got three or four players in a good moment, with great talent, playing in the same position.”
Martinez, meanwhile, says that Stones can be flattered that his performances have attracted so much speculation about interest from other clubs.
“That’s a good sign,” he said. “It’s not bad for a young man just starting his career.”