PHIL JAGIELKA didn’t get a wink of sleep, but he was not too bothered.
As thousands of Evertonians descended on the south German city of Nuremberg in November 2007, their enthusiasm made it difficult for the players to get some rest.
But it mattered little as Everton won at the easyCredit Frankenstadion that night thanks to late goals from Mikel Arteta and Victor Anichebe to make it back-to-back wins in the Uefa Cup group stages.
And though Jagielka was only used as a last minute replacement,, the whistle stop tour of Nuremberg still left an impression on the defender.
Everton have been without European football since 2010 but their encouraging start to the Premier League season has allowed hope of a return to the continent to grow.
Jagielka says qualifying for the Champions League remains the ultimate aim but knows securing a place in the Europa League will be celebrated.
Europe’s premier club competition has gross commercial income estimated at 1.09bn Euros, with the Europa League said to generate less than 20% of that figure, despite having 24 more clubs involved.
Jagielka understands that every club would love to tap into the riches of the Champions League but says there is real value in playing in the Europa League, as the fans in Germany that night proved.
“We were in the hotel in Nuremberg and when we looked out the window, there were fans on top of the bus stop,” Jagielka says with a smile. “We probably couldn’t sleep because of the noise the fans were making but it was great to see them and one of those European memories that really stays with me.
“Also, I made my comeback against Sporting Lisbon after my injury and I got a nice reception off the fans.
“There have been different nights, for different reasons in Europe which have stood out for me but it would’ve been nice to have gone a little bit further.
“I know the manager is desperate and he would love to go in the Champions League but there are going to be two of three teams that are knocking on the door for that fourth spot.
He added: “A lot of people are desperate to get in the Champions League but are not so keen to get in the Europa League because of the financial difference between the competitions.
“The Champions League is massive but you don’t start making money until the latter stages of the Europa. But if you talked to the players about the nights we had three or four years ago, then I’m sure they’ll all say it’s fantastic.
”It’s another cup you want to try and win and they’ll be a lot of very good teams in it again next year. It makes the season longer and a little harder but at the same time it gives the squad even more chance to become one and give lads more chance to play.
“We’d love to be in Europe. Ideally it would be for the Champions League but the club have finished fourth before and not made it through to the group stages, so there are no guarantees.
“We’d love to be able to give European football as a thank-you to the fans and though all the travel becomes expensive, I know they’d love it.”