Sheffield United: Stoke City's Phil Jagelka told The Blades he wanted to stay

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Phil Jagielka wanted to extend his stay with Sheffield United before being released at the end of his contract nearly two years ago.

The 40-year-old centre-half, who is set to face his former club when Stoke City visit Bramall Lane tomorrow, looked set to finish his career in South Yorkshire after rejoining the club from Everton following their promotion to the Premier League.

But he was allowed to leave when United were relegated from the top-flight two seasons later, as the club prepared for life back in the Championship.

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After spending a brief spell in caretaker charge that term, now manager Paul Heckingbottom has revealed he played no part in that decision ahead of the meeting with Alex Neil’s side. Although he refused to criticise those responsible for making the call, telling The Star only they knew what United’s budget was at the time, Heckingbottom said: “I don’t know that. But what I do know is that Jags would have loved to have stayed.”

Capped 40 times by England, Jagielka progressed through United’s youth system under Heckingbottom’s predecessor Neil Warnock before being sold to Everton in 2007. He spent over a decade on Merseyside before being lured back by Chris Wilder, whose departure saw Heckingbottom handed the reins on a short-term basis. After returning to his job with United’s development squad, he was later unveiled as Slavisa Jokanovic’s permanent successor when the Serb quickly departed amid a run of disappointing results and disagreements with the board over transfer policy.

Jagielka has made 15 appearances for City since August and scored during their 3-1 win over United three months ago.

“I honestly don’t know what the budget was, so I don’t know if it was a good decision,” said Heckingbottom, who has led United to second in the table. “That’s why, if I was quizzed about it, I’d have to tell you I don’t know if it was a good decision or not.”

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“What I will say is that the Championship is very different to the Premier League,” he added. “When I have seen him, I could envisage him playing games for us now though. In fact, I’m sure he would have played games for us if he was still here."