Derby County's hopes of signing ex-Sheffield United trio receive a boost after EFL relax embargo - with strict conditions

Derby County’s hopes of signing a trio of former Sheffield United players may have just received a boost, after the EFL agreed to relax their embargo on the Pride Park club and allow them to sign five out-of-contract players ahead of the new Championship season.

By Danny Hall
Tuesday, 20th July 2021, 3:05 pm

As The Star reported earlier this week, former Blades Phil Jagielka, Richard Stearman and Ravel Morrison are all training with Derby, and all three appeared in the Rams’ first pre-season friendly of the season against Manchester United at the weekend.

But Rams boss Wayne Rooney admitted his frustration after the game, with the EFL’s embargo dashing any hopes of signing any of the three players.

Sign up to our Sheffield United newsletter

Rooney complained that he had no senior centre-halves ahead of the start of the season early next month; his squad is currently made up of nine senior, contracted professionals.

But despite the relaxation, Derby will only be allowed to sign free agents on one-year contracts and any deal must be within strict wage limits.

Ravel Morrison is expected to be amongst the first offered a deal by Rooney, while Jagielka and Stearman will be hoping to continue their careers at Championship level after being released by United and Huddersfield Town respectively at the end of last season.

Phil Jagielka played for Derby County against Manchester United at the weekend (Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

United host Derby at Bramall Lane on September 25, travelling to Pride Park on January 15.

The EFL imposed the embargo as part of an ongoing battle with Derby about their financial practices, fining them £100,000 last month and ordering them to resubmit their accounts by August 18. Derby may be hit with further charges in the future if the accounts throw up any further issues.

An EFL statement today read: “Further to a request from Derby County, the EFL Board has now considered the circumstances regarding appearances made by a number of academy players in the FA Cup tie against Chorley earlier this year.

“Upon review, the Board has determined that the appearance in that fixture by those players will not be considered as part of any assessment of whether they are players of ‘professional standing’ in line with the League’s embargo policy, due to the exceptional circumstances that applied at the time of the fixture.

Wayne Rooney talks to former Blades Ravel Morrison and Richard Stearman (Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

“However, the Board rejected a further request to relax an enhanced embargo that remains in place in respect of other regulation breaches. The Club will therefore continue to be under wage restrictions on player recruitment and limited to a squad size up to 23 players of ‘professional standing’.”