Derby County defender Phil Jagielka has suggested that he decided not to retire from football and instead sign for the Rams this summer on the strength of advice from various figures within the game.
Jagielka was allowed to leave Sheffield United at the end of his deal with Blades at the start of the summer and at the age of 39, it would not have been a major surprise to anyone to see the defender call time on his lengthy and successful career.
However, eyebrows were raised when Jagielka started training with Derby alongside other free-agents during their pre-season as Wayne Rooney searched for more bodies to strengthen his threadbare squad.
Eventually, Derby were able to offer Jagielka a deal with the club following the EFL relaxing the transfer embargo that had been placed on the Rams.
The defender has proven to be a very positive addition to the squad in the first month of the campaign. He has slotted straight into the back four alongside Curtis Davies and provided a real solid base for Rooney’s side to build from.
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Speaking to Derby County’s official club website, Jagielka has insisted that he made the decision not to retire this summer and instead continue playing with the Rams off the back of some advice from players he knows within the game that he has played alongside in his career.
He said: “It’s not an easy answer to that.
“When I started playing football, I played with a lot of older professionals that Neil Warnock brought to Sheffield United and they were great examples.
“I played alongside Sylvain Distin when I was in my mid to late 20s at Everton and there were role models around me.
“It’s conversations you have with these people that continue to play at a high level for a long time that play a part.
“The amount of people that told me to continue playing whilst I can said to me that I would miss it.
“Most, if not every single professional I played alongside, said that so it’s a case of as long as I don’t feel like I’m letting myself, and my team-mates, down.
“I do respect the advice and vision from my close friends and family. They would hopefully tell me it’s time to hang the boots up when the time comes but as it stands, I still feel I can get out on the pitch and I’ll be useful.”
This decision from Jagielka has most definitely been to the benefit of Derby this season, the experienced defender does not look like a player that is ready to call it a day on his professional career given the strength of performances he has produced for the Rams so far.
Rooney would have been aware that Jagielka would bring a lot of experience and leadership to Derby’s squad at a crucial period for the club. That is proving to be vital for the Rams at the start of the season and it looks like a very astute addition to have made under the circumstances.
There will of course still be doubts over whether Jagielka can last a full season playing week in week out at his age, but there have been no signs to suggest that he is slowing down at all in his first few appearances for the Rams.
If Jagielka can stay injury-free for the full campaign then he should continue to be a crucial part of their side for the rest of the Championship season.