The ‘new Steve Bruce’ continues on path to international honours
HE is the Premier League footballer who loves the Three Lions so much that he travelled to Euro 2016 as a fan.
Harry Maguire is also so down-to-earth in an age where a washbag can set a player back upwards of £1,000 that he turned up on England duty for the first time with his belongings in a bin bag to earn a telling-off from his horrified mother.
To the man who helped the Sheffield-born defender realise his top-flight dream, however, Maguire is fondly recalled as the player who he once told Steve Bruce was destined to become “the next Steve Bruce”.
“Those were the exact words I said to Steve after first watching Harry play for Sheffield United,” says Stan Ternent, for four years Bruce’s head of recruitment at Hull City, when speaking to The Yorkshire Post ahead of a World Cup qualifier at Wembley against Slovakia tonight that is set bring Maguire’s first place on the bench.
“I’d been told about Harry when he was a young lad through some contacts of mine. So, I went along to watch Sheffield United to see for myself. I can’t remember who were the opposition but I remember thinking: ‘This kid can play’.
“So, I did a bit of homework and liked what I heard. To cut a long story short, I went back to Steve and said: ‘I have seen a kid that you have to take’.
“He asked if I was sure so I said: ‘I have seen him a couple of times now and, under no circumstances, can you miss out on Harry Maguire – he can honestly be the next Steve Bruce’.
“And I didn’t say that lightly, either, because Steve was a wonderful player, the best I can think of who never got an England cap.”
Whether Maguire gets his chance to shine under the Wembley Arch tonight or not, the 24-year-old has undoubtedly become one of the Premier League’s brightest talents.
He first caught the eye of the wider sporting public last season, footage of the Hull defender gliding out of defence with the ball at his feet becoming almost as common a feature of Saturday night on Match of the Day as Gary Lineker’s weak puns and the 19th hole chumminess of the show’s pundits.
But it is in the colours of Leicester City following a summer transfer that could eventually bring £17m into the KCOM Stadium coffers where his deeds have brought the ultimate recognition via an England callup from Gareth Southgate.
To those who have followed Maguire’s career since he first announced himself on debut in senior football by dumping Craig Bellamy on his backside in such unceremonious fashion that the normally fiery Welshman actually commended him with the words “good tackle”, such a meteoric rise has not come as a surprise.
Thrust into a United team that was just a month away from being relegated to League One, Maguire, even at the tender age of 17, looked to have a mature head on those ever so broad shoulders.
He could also play, something that can be put down, in part, to Maguire having grown up as a midfielder with junior club Brunsmeer Athletic.
Only a growth spurt at the age of 15 and John Pemberton, then United’s Academy manager, suggesting he move back into defence brought a change of position but the legacy of those years in midfield can be seen in his composure when setting off on one of those barnstorming runs upfield.
“Harry is a big powerful lad,” added Ternent. “His aerial technique needed a bit of work at Hull, which I still think is the case as he has more improvement in him.
“But he has developed into a good defender, who reads the game very well. He also suits the modern way of bringing the ball out from the back.”
By the age of 19, Maguire had racked up a century of appearances for the Blades and been named in the PFA Team of the Year for 2011-12.
Two more selections by his third tier peers would follow along with an appearance at Wembley in an FA Cup semifinal, ironically lost to Bruce’s Tigers in April, 2014, but not the elusive promotion that everyone at Bramall Lane craved.
It meant, as the summer of 2014 dawned, that a move away from Maguire’s home city looked more and more likely. Hull won that race to continue him along a road that, before very long, seems certain to bring what would only be his second taste of international football.
The first came with the Under-21s at Bloomfield Road in November, 2012, the then Blades defender coming off the bench for the final half-hour in a 2-0 victory over Northern Ireland.
Seven months later, another South Yorkshire defender who Maguire had faced in youth team games against Barnsley was making his Under-21s debut and Ternent sees definite similarities between the pair.
“John Stones went for £50m last year but there isn’t a lot between them,” he added. “Stones may be a bit quicker and more mobile but Harry has other things to his game.
“What always impressed me was how he handled things, even at such a young age. By the time he was 20, he had played a hell of a lot of games for Sheffield United and that experience has been vital. He is a really good lad, too. Always willing to listen and take what others might advise on board.”
Maguire’s trip to France for Euro 2016 included attending the group game against tonight’s opponents at Wembley. A dull goalless draw in SaintEtienne was enough to send Roy Hodgson’s men through to the knockout stage and a seemingly straightforward meeting with Iceland.
That, of course, did not end too well but if Maguire can maintain his current rate of progress and England do not slip up in qualifying, chances are next summer’s tournament will kick off with Maguire enjoying a much more pivotal role in Russia than cheering from the stands.
John Stones went for £50m last year but there isn’t a lot between them. Stan Ternent comparing Harry Magurie to Manchester City’s John Stones.
HANDS OFF: Harry Maguire, left, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain during an England training session at St Georges’ Park, Burton.