Phil Jagielka has stepped up to take a penalty in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
He has played for his country at a World Cup finals, made almost 700 senior appearances – one as an emergency goalkeeper – and for six years has handled the responsibility of being captain of Everton Football Club.
Jagielka handled what might have been crippling nervousness by convincing himself those feelings were ‘normal’.
Not every individual has that sense of perspective. Not every person has the mental strength to compartmentalise such emotions.
In October he undertook a mental health awareness training programme to mark World Mental Health Day.
And he has been a keen promoter of the club’s push to build ‘The People’s Place’ – a mental health drop-in centre in the shadow of Goodison Park.
Before Tuesday’s Gala dinner to raise more funds for that project he said: “I have been here a long time now and I have seen the progression it (Everton in the Community) has made.
“We do take pride in helping the community out in all different types of areas in and around the ground, not only on matchdays but throughout the week and throughout the year.
“As it’s evolved we’ve gone beyond the normal community work that most football clubs do and we’ve been able to get buildings, renovate buildings, even build new buildings.
“There’s the Free School and now we’re talking about doing something with the mental health hub which we will hopefully build in the next few months if not the next year.”
‘We’ve had people who play football to get over their fears of communicating’
He continued: “It’s exciting. I have been fortunate enough to speak to the army veterans a few times and I do enjoy seeing them because you have banter with the guys, but you also get to know how they feel and their state of mind.
“We’ve had lads come in and talk about their own issues and people who meet up to play football to get over their fears of communicating and getting out amongst people. So we have been heavily involved.
“It’s not something you go around telling everyone about. But when you go out there and do it you enjoy representing the club. I have been doing it many years now and the transition and progression we have been going along is fantastic.”
Dave Curtis firmly believes Everton saved his life
Those army veterans Jags enjoys joshing with include Dave Curtis, who firmly believes Everton saved his life, or Derek Goodwin – who tried to take his life on a regular basis.
Jagielka admits that those meetings have made him a better person.
“We all suffer from self doubts and anxiety,” he admitted. “It’s just to what level. You become a little anxious and nervy and you want to do well.
“It’s a little bit more difficult for me now. I don’t get to play, so when the time comes … the Cardiff game was one of the most nervous I’ve ever been yet I’m also the most experienced I’ve ever been?
“But obviously because you haven’t played for such a certain amount of time it was natural.
WATCH: Marco Silver on Jagielka’s future
“I was nervous for the first 10 or 15 minutes but I looked upon it as natural and normal for what I have done and how the season has gone for me. If I wasn’t nervous there would have been problem. it would mean I’m not really bothered and I’ve still not got the drive to want to keep playing, but with me feeling a bit edgy and a bit nervous was part and parcel of it.
“You have injuries and ups and downs in your career so you do deal with it better.
“I have my close friends and family I can talk to. And I’ve been lucky enough that Leighton (Baines) has been here a long time, Seamus (Coleman), and a lot of members of the staff have been here a while.
“Obviously there’s my mum and dad, my wife and close family and kids, a few close friends. They are the ones who know you the best and sometimes they give you a little kick up the backside and sometimes it’s an arm around you.
“Mostly it’s a kick up the back side!”
Players may experience anger when they retire
Despite his vast experience in top level football, Jagielka’s greatest mental challenge may still await him.
He is 36 years-old, his current Everton contract expires in May and, at present, there is no indication of whether he will be awarded another.
The PFA’s Mental Health for Footballers home page is stark.
Under the headline “Retirement and Anger” is the message: “Players may experience many different feelings when they retire. In this section we focus on the effects of anger.”
Jagielka has never been the type of footballer to lose his rag on a pitch. A rare red card on the opening day of the season was down to a fractionally mistimed tackle and an over-enthusiastic, and inconsistent, referee.
But Jagielka is already thinking towards the day his life changes dramatically.
“Obviously if you look at it I’m 36 now and for 20 years I’ve been getting told what time to get up, where to go to, how long to stay there for and when to go home!
‘I think that’s the biggest thing when you do retire. The emptiness’
“If you like it’s been really regimented so obviously there’s going to be a stage where, whether you rertire at 30, 35, 40 or whatever, you won’t get that and it’s what you do next to give yourself some sort of, not purpose, but reason for getting up in the morning.
“You might take the kids to school instead which I’ve not been able to do for 10/15 years. You might pick them up and watch them do sport or go and see your family a bit more.
“But I think that’s the biggest thing when you do retire. The emptiness.
“I get up in the morning, get changed and go to work and I can chat with 15/20 guys. There is going to be banter and camaraderie. And much as I love my wife’s conversations it’s not the same. And my sons and my daughters, it’s totally different, so that’s where I think the difference comes for players when they retire. But I think we have enough knowledge and enough people around the place now that hopefully, and I go back to the word normal again, that it will be ‘normal’.
“It is normal to feel a bit left out when you’ve had that for so long and once you start to realise yourself that it is natural and normal.
“It’s the same in any walk of life when you’ve been doing something for so long, to come away from it is going to be scary, and it’s how you then approach that next aspect of your life.”
Jagielka is comfortable talking about mental health and the looming changes in his life.
But that has not always been the case in society generally and the macho, dog-eat-dog world of football, especially.
The Everton captain has noticed a sea change in recent years.
’15 years ago mental health was almost taboo’
“People were trying to bury it,” he admitted.”Fifteen/20 years ago mental health was almost taboo.
“When I started in the game if you had any issues or doubts you questioned yourself. You just put it down to normal nerves or normal doubts, you wouldn’t speak to any of your team-mates. You might have had the odd closer person who might have been going through something similar. But the way social media is now the world is such a small place.
“Being able to google and ask questions and speak to people and meet people who are going through similar things can make a big difference.
“Talking to someone doesn’t seem like a lot. But getting something off your chest and getting someone else’s opinion – someone who has been through a similar stage or similar set of circumstances can help.
“You actually see there are people there to help you and it doesn’t need to be someone who is professionally qualified, sometimes just a normal person who has been through something similar can help.”
As skipper of Everton Football Club for six seasons now Jagielka has had players come to him for advice and support.
“Yeah, that’s right,” he said. “As players we are still full of testosterone and running around and all sorts, but when it comes to questions, as captain, myself and some of the other senior players have to take that responsibility.
“It happens in a season. You go through good parts and bad parts. You are there to try and guide not just the young lads but the lads who are new to the club – and guide them in the right direction.”
Jagielka’s work with Everton in the Community has also helped him in his dealings with his peers.
“Meeting these people and going along this journey myself has made me a better person,” he explained. “So going along and helping out – I’m not sure I’m that much help but they seem to enjoy it! – is what it’s about.
“It’s making people feel more normal, and it is normal.
“Everyone goes through something but it’s just at what end of the spectrum.”
‘People are more comfortable talking about it now’
He continues: “I don’t think people have started getting more mental health problems, I think people are just more comfortable talking about it now.
“There have been a few high profile players. Obviously we had Aaron (Lennon) at our place and as soon as you get over the initial hurdle and break that barrier down people realise there are people you can speak to and they are not the only ones going through this.
“They are scared that it might affect them getting played at the weekend or getting a new contract, and they realise it is totally normal to have those feelings and it’s what the next stage is.
“We are pretty much nailed on to build the property and have people in there professionally for people from the outside world to go and to speak to. Look at the community around Goodison. It’s right in the middle of a block of houses. it is in the community. You can’t get any more community-based. For the club to build it so close and giving people such easy access, along with the free school, is great.
“It’s something to be proud of. I know we’re not the only club doing things in the community but I honestly believe and truthfully believe we are at the top end.
“We have fantastic people running it and helping out. Not everyone is on the payroll. people volunteer and without those people and the vision of the guys driving it forward it wouldn’t be the success it is. The under-23s have been amazing as well. Unsy and his players have got a little cold a few times (Sleeping out at Goodison Park).
“It’s all part and parcel of what we want to do. Football isn’t the be all and end all. but at the same extent it means a hell of a lot to a hell of a lot of people. Especially at weekends. if we can help for the rest of the week we can let the football take care of itself.”