Wayne Rooney pays tribute to "incredible" Phil Jagielka as Derby defender prepares for momentous return to Sheffield United

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Wayne Rooney, the Derby County manager, has paid tribute to “incredible” Phil Jagielka as the veteran defender prepares to return to Sheffield United this weekend.

Jagielka had two spells at the Blades as a player before moving on in the summer following the club’s relegation from the Premier League, before linking up with Rooney’s side in pre-season.

According to Soccerbase, Jagielka will make the 700th appearance of his professional career if he is selected to face the Blades on Saturday afternoon.

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And Rooney, a former teammate of the 39-year-old with both Everton and England, admitted: “Jags has been brilliant since he came in, in pre-season first of all and then to get him to come in and sign.

“Him and Curtis [Davies] have been immense for us at the back and it’s a great achievement to get 700 games.

“It’s not easy and I know what it does to your body and how difficult it is to keep going. He’s been incredible, and it’s my job and the fitness coaches’ jobs to make sure he's in the best condition he can be on matchday.”

Derby make the trip to Bramall Lane bottom of the table and on minus two points, after being hit by an automatic 12-point deduction for going into administration earlier this week.

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There is also the possibility of further sanctions for the crisis club from the EFL over their financial irregularities, and Rooney revealed how he is going to approach it to his players.

Wayne Rooney, manager of Derby County: Alistair Langham / SportimageWayne Rooney, manager of Derby County: Alistair Langham / Sportimage
Wayne Rooney, manager of Derby County: Alistair Langham / Sportimage

“What’s important is the players understand how they’re performing,” Rooney, whose side beat Stoke last weekend just hours after news of the club’s impending administration broke, added.

“They started the season okay, we’re bottom at the minute but on form they’re on 12th place. We have to be realistic, but they have to know how they’re performing.

“More so than ever, points are important now. There’s a tough game on Saturday but the lads will be ready and we’ll do our best.

“The work will be there and we’ll do our best to win the game. I’ve got no doubts that the players won’t go out there and give everything to get three points.”

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