In 2005, David Unsworth played the role of mentor to a young defender breaking through into Sheffield United’s first team.
Fast-forward 12 years and Phil Jagielka is now doing the very same for Unsworth’s precocious young talents.
The Everton skipper has been the experienced head alongside Leighton Baines in a Blues backline that has featured Mason Holgate and Matthew Pennington in recent weeks, and he has been delighted to see his young teammates flourishing.
“It was funny when I walked out at Old Trafford – I thought I was playing in an Under-23 game!” he smiled. “I had a laugh and joke with Unsy the other day saying that it’s making me feel old. He said he felt something similar when I was at Sheffield United and he came in for a season.
“Unsy has got to be proud because he has a good bunch of lads, not just as footballers but as a group of men as well.
“It is a difficult situation to come into with the last three games we have had – at Anfield, Old Trafford and at home to the champions. It was a sink or swim test for the lads but they have done really well. It bodes well for the squad, which is quite thin at the moment in the defensive areas.
Having gone through exactly what the likes of Pennington and Holgate are experiencing at present, Jagielka is imparting his knowhow on the young players in the squad.
However, he has been pleased with what he has seen so far. “It is important that when you get instances like conceding a couple of goals against Leicester, that you don’t let the younger players’ heads drop,” he added.
“Sometimes you see them go back into their shells but in this case I actually think it took the shackles off a little bit. They put in some great defensive moments and some really good offensive ones as well.
“The youngsters have been given opportunities, done well and it’s always nice when the team is winning.”