Sheffield United Opinion: Phil Jagielka’s sensational return to Bramall Lane could be a massive boost for the Blades
According to Stoke-on-Trent Live, Phil Jagielka has been linked with a sensational return to Sheffield United this summer, with reports claiming that the Blades are set to battle it out with Championship outfit Stoke City for the signature of the 36-year-old defender.
Jagielka is currently a free agent after ending his 12-year-long association with Everton and the former England international is not short of suitors even at the twilight of his career, with newly-promoted outfit Sheffield United keen to bring their former player back to Bramall Lane.
The centre-back rose to prominence with Sheffield United earlier in his career and made 247 appearances for the Blades in all competitions before joining Everton back in the summer of 2007.
Jagielka, who has 40 caps for England at the senior international level, featured 385 times for the Toffees over the course of his illustrious and distinguished career in English football, scoring 19 goals and setting up another 11 in the process.
The former England international was a part of Sheffield United’s last Premier League squad back in the 2006-07 season and the Blades are keen to bring him back to the club in a bid to add much-needed top-flight experience to their ranks.
Chris Wilder’s side secured automatic promotion to the Premier League as runners-up to Norwich City in the Championship and the Blades finished their campaign in the second-tier sharing the joint-best defensive record with Middlesbrough, having conceded only 41 goals in 46 league outings.
Stability at the back was one of the hallmarks of United’s success this past season and it is pretty clear that they are currently not crying out for defensive reinforcements.
The likes of John Egan, Chris Basham and Jack O’Connell formed a formidable partnership at the back, with Wilder preferring a back-three system with Enda Stevens and George Baldock as the two wing-backs on either side.
Egan, Basham and O’Connell all did a terrific job but neither of them has any too much Premier League experience under their belt, and while one would expect them to make the step up to the top-flight in due course of time, the arrival of Jagielka would add a lot of experience to the club’s defensive ranks.
Experience in the top-flight is often an overstated trait but it would be hard to raise questions over the quality and calibre of a player of Jagielka’s stature even at the age of 36.
The veteran made only 7 appearances for Everton in the Premier League this past season and scored the winner in the Toffees’ 1-0 victory over Arsenal in April, reminding the fans that he still has enough gas left in his tank to make an impact at the highest level.
Jagielka would not be expected to play week-in-week-out in the Premier League next season even if he does make a dramatic return to Bramall Lane in the summer transfer window. However, a charismatic leader like him would certainly be a positive influence on the other players on and off the pitch, which in turn, would improve cohesiveness in the club’s ranks.
The veteran would not provide a long-term solution for Sheffield, given that he is already 36 but it won’t be a bad idea for the Blades to bring back their former player for one last hurrah in the Premier League.
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They need to plan a squad overhaul this summer and bring in a few upgrades, and the acquisition of Jagielka on a free transfer could prove to be a masterstroke from Wilder.