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Everton boss Roberto Martinez is still receiving plaudits for his job on Merseyside this season, and it's all the more impressive considering the layoff for defender Phil Jagielka. The Toffees captain has been sidelined for around two months now, and Martinez is still hopeful that the England star will return before the end of the season - but won't rush him back in to action.
“Phil Jagielka has got his own programme and it is important that we follow that and we don’t rush him back. He has been involved with the first-team training now and that is a really good sign. We want Phil back as quick as we can but not because we have got an injury with Sylvain. We aren’t going to rush and do the wrong things in his individual programme. Phil is going to be fully fit very soon and I do expect that he will probably be able to make the squad against Manchester City [on 3 May] and that’s always been the plan. I do believe that we will be able to reach that," said Martinez.
Jagielka's absence has led to the introduction of youngster John Stones, and his impressive displays are attracting interest from elsewhere. Alongside other young stars Seamus Coleman, Ross Barkley and James McCarthy, Martinez has the core of a great team, and the Spaniard says he still wants to extend the contracts of all four players in a bid to keep them at Goodison Park.
"As I always say we are not going to come out in the press and media and do our business that way, but as a football club we will always reward players that perform and develop well. We will always work hard behind the scenes to deal and work with those in an efficient manner, and when we’ve done something the fans will be the first to find out," said Martinez.
They may not be the only players eyed up to stay at the club, as Martinez has hinted at the possibility of striker Lacina Traore returning next season. The giant Ivorian joined on loan from Monaco in January, but has suffered an injury hit stay on Merseyside - leading to Martinez hoping to see more from Traore next season if a deal can be reached.
“Lacina is someone we really believe can bring something different to the team and he is someone we will try to see if we can get an opportunity to sit down and see what is the next chapter," Martinez admitted.