Phil Jagielka has credited Darron Gibson with a key influence on Everton's return to Champions League contention following the midfielder's commanding display in the win over Tottenham Hotspur.
The Republic of Ireland international was instrumental in the dramatic win over André Villas-Boas' team that took Everton back into fourth place in the Premier League. Gibson was out for almost three months with a thigh injury but his return has coincided with improved performances from David Moyes' team against Arsenal, Manchester City and Spurs and, Jagielka believes, brought overdue recognition for the £500,000 signing from Manchester United.
Jagielka, the stand-in captain in the absence of the injured Phil Neville, said: "Maybe Darron hasn't scored that many since he has been here; he's not a dribbler and not what you'd see as a fancy dan sort of player. But if you filmed his role in the team and watched it back there would be some fantastic passes, great tackles and some clever football.
"He came from a great club in Manchester United and it shows with the time he finds on the ball and the confidence he has in long-range passes."
The England defender also believes Gibson's midfield partnership with Leon Osman was crucial against Spurs, with Everton claiming only a second win in 10 league games.
He added: "It makes playing against us a lot harder when you have people like Darron in the team and Ossie by the side of him. They are two different footballers but equally as important. Ossie is good in tight spaces and finding the little passes, while Gibbo is such a good passer and has a great range. He must have put five or six people nearly through on goal or into crossing positions, especially in the first half.
"Gibbo is massively important for us and you need to have someone who can keep the opposing defence on their toes. We know that if he does get a bit of time he can be like our quarterback and start putting in some fantastic passes."
Jagielka admits it is imperative Everton capitalise on the Spurs victory having lost momentum with seven draws in those 10 outings. "We would have swapped four draws for two wins and two defeats," he added. "It's all about getting wins in this league. Don't get me wrong, it's nice to stay unbeaten. Going to Man City and drawing is a good point and a draw at home to Arsenal is, too. But other games where we have not managed to kill off teams have been very disappointing. It wasn't make-or-break against Spurs but it was desperately important for us to pick up three points."
Moyes, meanwhile, could be without the effective Kevin Mirallas at Stoke City on Saturday. The Belgium international had missed four games prior to Sunday with a hamstring injury and felt the muscle tighten in the first half against Tottenham. Mirallas, who was withdrawn at the interval, is not thought to have suffered a serious problem but may be rested at the Britannia as a precaution.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Ben Sutherland