Why Sheffield United's most experienced performer could be set for new deal
Sheffield United decided to offer Phil Jagielka a new contract after being impressed with the centre-half’s professionalism behind the scenes, despite his failure to command a regular place in Chris Wilder’s starting eleven after returning to the club from Everton.
The former England defender, who has been capped 40 times by country, had been expected to depart during the close season having made only six appearances in the Premier League last term.
Although Wilder has sought to bolster his options at the back by handing Chris Basham a new deal and tracking Nottingham Forest youngster Matty Cash, the United manager informed Jagielka he would be invited to extend his agreement for another 12 months before the final match of the campaign - a 3-1 defeat at Southampton which saw the visitors finish ninth, only 15 months after being promoted from the Championship.
Wilder suspects the 37-year-old’s experience will prove invaluable as United look to build upon their recent progress despite lacking the financial might required to sign proven top-flight performers at the peak of their powers. It remains unclear, however, if a move for Cash would alter the situation.
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Outlining why Jagielka’s contribution to his squad’s achievements since leaving Goodison Park must not be underestimated, Wilder explained: “He’s got more knowledge at this level than anyone else here. He knows what is required and he’s a consummate professional. Even though he’s not played as much as he would have liked, Jags has always been there helping people out in the dressing room, making sure they’re properly prepared and passing on any advice that he can.”
Jagielka, who turns 38 later this month, progressed through United’ youth system before moving to Everton in 2007; making 322 starts and travelling to both the World Cup and European Championships before heading back to South Yorkshire last summer. Jack O’Connell recently described him as “perhaps my biggest influence here” after being asked to describe how, after playing the majority of his career in the EFL, he had made such a smooth transition to life at the highest level.
“When we needed Jags to stay,” Wilder added, reflecting upon events during the Covid-19 pandemic, “We knew he’d say yes without thinking.”