How City nearly signed England star Maguire
THE Bristol City double-winning season of 2014-15 will never be forgotten by Robins supporters, with the West Country men sauntering to the League One title and winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Wembley.
Then head coach Steve Cotterill was eager to build on the momentum from being promoted to the English second tier in the summer of 2015.
Chiefly, Cotterill wanted to reinforce in attack. Deals were lined up by Cotterill and then director of football Keith Burt for strikers Dwight Gayle and Andre Gray, with Brentford attacker Gray even visiting Bristol and staying in the Marriott Hotel to seal a transfer to Ashton Gate on a contract not too far from what City’s highest earner receives now. As is well documented, both moves fell through.
The Bristol City board were unwilling to sanction the transfers, preferring a long-term build instead, based upon academy talent and more valuedriven, under-the-radar purchases on lower wages.
But it wasn’t just in attack that City looked. To help the defence, the club had a serious interest in then Hull City defender Harry Maguire too.
Though Derrick Williams and Aden Flint had been mainstays of the League One success, the Robins were looking to specifically bolster the defence with at least one more centreback to tackle the challenge of competing in the Championship.
Maguire was highly rated as a developing central defender, with the skill set to see off physical challenges and have the technical skills to play at the higher end of the game. As has proven to be the case. Crucially, he already had experience of playing at that level, that the City management team were looking for and this elevated him over other transfer targets that summer.
The chance to snap him up was deemed too good to let pass, especially at the agreed price.
Sky Sports reported a
£2.5 million bid from the Robins that summer. It was officially denied by City, but the interest was real.
Indeed, then Bristol City chairman Keith Dawe told the Bristol Post at the time: “We made an enquiry for Harry Maguire and a proposal was probably discussed. But there was no formal bid, because Hull are not interested in selling the player at the present time.”
However, the Bristol Post understands a deal was far closer
to coming to fruition than was made public back then.
On the face of it, it appeared Cotterill and Burt were unable to persuade the Tigers to sell, despite the Humberside team’s relegation from the Premier League that season. In actual fact, a deal with Hull City and Steve Bruce was agreed to the point that Bruce was already in the process of lining up a replacement for Maguire with another transfer well down the line.
All was set up for Maguire to come in to BS3. “It was in the bag,” according to one person involved.
Maguire had received little game-time at the KC Stadium back then, due to playing behind Curtis Davies and Michael Dawson, and had instead joined Wigan on loan in the February of the 2014-15 season, making his debut against Reading and scoring against Blackpool two weeks later.
He made 16 appearances for the Latics that year, enough to entice the watching Cotterill and Burt, and terms were subsequently agreed with Hull to bring in the former Sheffield United youth player, who would later become club captain of Manchester United.
Former City manager Danny Wilson had managed Maguire while he was coming through at Sheffield United, giving a glowing reference of the player off the pitch. But, crucially, the Bristol City board hesitated and decided not to pursue the agreed terms on offer.
One reason was that certain board members believed that the agreed transfer fee would take up too much of the allocated funds for that particular window. There would be little finance left for further players to come in during that window. A subsequent renegotiated offer was deemed not high enough to gain the then 22-year-old’s signature.