D-day approaches for Phil Jagielka and fellow defender as key deadline looms for Sheffield United

Sheffield United could confirm the end of Phil Jagielka’s career at Bramall Lane before the weekend, as the deadline for clubs to inform out-of-contract players if they will be offered new deals fast approaches.
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Guidelines issued by the Football Association stipulate anyone set to become a free agent must receive notice within seven days of their team’s final match of a season about plans to renew their agreements.

Although the reaction of his colleagues when Jagielka was introduced during the closing stages of last weekend’s win over Burnley suggests the 38-year-old is unlikely to represent United on the pitch again, fellow defender Kean Bryan’s future appears more uncertain ahead of their return to the Championship. Like Jagielka, his contract also expires this summer but there has been no indication about whether or not he will be invited to remain in South Yorkshire.

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After being relegated from the Premier League following a miserable campaign which also saw them part company with Chris Wilder, United’s attempts to organise an orderly return to the EFL have been complicated by the fact they have yet to unveil their former manager’s replacement.

With several potential candidates initially appearing destined for the job only to fall by the wayside, caretaker Paul Heckingbottom, whose name also featured on the shortlist compiled by the selection panel, has been entrusted with the job of arranging pre-season schedules and helping the board take a view on the likes of Jagielka and Bryan.

However, speaking after overseeing his third victory at the helm, even Heckingbottom, who has been a model of diplomacy since accepting the interim position, acknowledged it would be beneficial for “everyone” if the search is swiftly concluded.

“There’s people who need speaking to,” he said, referring to those in the dressing room, “It’s an anxious time for some of them and they’d benefit from some reassurance either way, so we can start putting things in place.”

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After turning professional with United in 2000, Jagielka returned to Bramall Lane in 2019 after spending more than a decade with Everton. Capped 40 times by England, there have been calls for him to be handed a coaching or advisory role at United by the new regime.