Remembering the time Sheffield United's Phil Jagielka frustrated Arsenal IN GOAL, 15 years ago today

It’s exactly 15 years to the day since defender Phil Jagielka put in one of his most memorable performances in a Sheffield United shirt – by donning the gloves and going in goal against then-giants of the Premier League, Arsenal.

Thursday, 30th December 2021, 7:05 pm

Jagielka was often utilised as United’s auxiliary goalkeeper, with his then-manager Neil Warnock preferring to load his substitute bench with strikers and take the gamble that the future England international could cope in goal if needed.

He did so on a number of occasions, including in a memorable victory away at Millwall and a more forgettable 3-0 defeat away at Plymouth.

But it was December 30 2006 when Jagielka’s versatility really came to the fore, when Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal came to Bramall Lane on a cold Saturday evening in South Yorkshire.

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The Blades were already leading, courtesy of a wonderful piece of improvisation from Christian Nade to evade Kolo Toure and finish past Jens Lehmann. But the drama was to come in the second half when United goalkeeper Paddy Kenny injured himself kicking a ball clear and with no substitute stopper on the bench, Jagielka was handed the gloves for over half an hour.

Arsenal were not the force they had previously been, with Dennis Bergkamp retired and Thierry Henry sidelined, but still had the likes of Gilberto Silva, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie in their squad.

But Jagielka kept all at bay, even coming off his line to punch away a late corner and making a brilliant save to react and keep out van Persie’s scuffed shot, as United sealed a 1-0 victory.

The three points saw Warnock’s men finish the year 15th in the Premier League – before being cruelly relegated on the final day of the season just a few months later.

“I think Jags, like many outfield players, looked at us ‘keepers and thought ‘that looks fun’,” Kenny remembered of his former teammate Jagielka.

“It might do, until they have to do it and it hurts! To be fair to Jags, he wasn’t bad - he is like that annoying kid at school who is just naturally good at every sport he tries.

“He used to join in with the ‘keepers when we trained a few times, just do 20 minutes here and there of basic handling. He had a little bit about him, to be fair - he could catch it alright, which sure helped.

Neil Warnock celebrates Sheffield United's win over Arsenal with Phil Jagielka as goalscorer Christian Nade walks past

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“I watched the rest of the Arsenal game on TV in the changing room and Jags made a great save from van Persie.

Warnock was in his element in the dressing room afterwards. ‘We don’t need Paddy any more,’ he was saying. Jags is staying in!’

“My groin was in bits but I was buzzing for the team.”

Sheffield United's Christian Nade scores the winner against Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann

Teams: United: Kenny (Tonge 61), Kozluk, Morgan, Jagielka, Armstrong, Gillespie, Montgomery, Leigertwood (Davis 27), Alan Quinn, Nade (Hulse 70), Kazim-Richards. Subs Not Used: Webber, Law.

Arsenal: Lehmann, Hoyte (Fabregas 64), Toure, Senderos, Clichy, Julio Baptista, Silva, Rosicky (Denilson 83), Flamini, Van Persie, Aliadiere. Subs Not Used: Almunia, Lauren, Song.

Attendance: 32,086.

Jagielka had to go in goal for the Blades against Arsenal after Paddy Kenny damaged his groin