Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder insisted Phil Jagielka has a crucial role to play for the club, despite limited game time following his return to Bramall Lane.
Jagielka, 37, has made only one brief cameo appearance in the Premier League since leaving Everton in the summer to embark on his second spell with the Blades.
He is expected to start on the bench again when he heads back to Goodison Park for the clash with his former club on Saturday, but Wilder explained why the England international has already been such a positive influence.
“Not just for this game, Phil’s been a really important part of the group, whenever we have meetings, whenever I’ve spoken to him on a one-to-one situation,” Wilder said.
“Obviously he’s not had a lot of football this year because of the form of (Chris) Basham, (John) Egan and Jack O’Connell, but he’s ready, he’s fit and is raring to go.
“It was always going to be the case that if Jags wasn’t playing his input would be invaluable.”
Jagielka spent eight years with the Blades before joining Everton for £4million in 2007. He went on to captain the Merseyside club and made over 386 appearances in all competitions before heading back to Bramall Lane.
“He’s filled us with confidence at times in terms of what to expect in the Premier League and the self-belief in the team,” Wilder added.
“He’s been absolutely first class. He’s trained as if he was an 18-year-old, he interacts with the group and he interacts with myself and the staff.
“He’s been a great signing and I’m sure we’ll get him on to the pitch in one way or another throughout the season.”
John Lundstram, who has started all five of the Blades’ Premier League games this season, will also be returning to his former club, while fellow midfielder Mo Besic will play no part against his parent club.
Wilder will also be without suspended striker Billy Sharp following his straight red card for his challenge on Stuart Armstrong in last week’s home defeat to Southampton.
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