While the sounds of “It’s Coming Home” echo around the country, if we cast our minds back to this day in 2016, England’s national team were in a very different predicament. As the first semi-final of the Euros took place, which saw Portugal defeat Wales 2-0, Roy Hodgson’s men were back home, licking their wounds, as they suffered a media circus of criticism following an embarrassing second round defeat to Iceland.
Amongst the thousands of patriotic England fans that flew to France to watch their team’s capitulation was a 23-year-old Harry Maguire. As he sat with his friends cheering England on, few would have guessed that the youngster had just celebrated his own success in a Football League Championship play-off final with Hull City.
What a difference a few years makes. Fast-forward to present day and the Sheffield-born defender is preparing for England’s World Cup quarter-final meeting with Sweden, this time in the changing rooms not the terraces.
Maguire’s progression from a national team fan to player is remarkable, and a great example of how far he has come in such a short space of time. It is no wonder that his performances in Russia have attracted attention from some of the Premier League’s elite, and with Manchester United still facing many unanswered questions regarding their defence, could Maguire be the answer?
Over the years United have had numerous memorable players that provided reliability in defence. The likes of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were unchangeable, unbeatable and unstoppable in their prime, and since then United have always seemed to struggle when it comes to maintaining a stoic defence.
Thanks to dips in form and fitness from the likes of Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Eric Bailly last season, United suffered issues along the back line on an almost weekly basis.
It is clear that Jose Mourinho’s side needs continuity, a player who can provide a solid base, which is exactly what Maguire offers.
Last season the defender was Leicester City’s most reliable player. He did not miss a single minute of his first season for the Premier League side, making 38 appearances and scoring two goals in the process, including a late, late equaliser against United.
And now the 25-year-old can add three solid World Cup performances to his CV.
Whilst many United fans will be swaying towards Toby Alderweireld, negotiations seem to have fallen flat. Although the Tottenham player may be an established defender within the league, Maguire still has a lot of experience to his name. Before the age of 21 he had already played more than 100 senior games.
The defender is also experienced on a variety of different levels. Whilst many of today’s Premier League stars rose through the ranks of high-profile clubs, Maguire made a name for himself at Sheffield United and quickly worked his way up the ranks.
After an impressive performance in an FA Youth Cup final defeat, ironically against United and the likes of Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba, Maguire was promoted to the Blades first team, where he cemented his place for three solid seasons. He hit the ground running and has certainly earned his place in the Premier League.
Whilst consistency has never been an issue for Maguire, it is only recently he’s begun to reap the reward his performances deserve, recognition finally being afforded the defender beyond just those who watch him week in week out.
During the World Cup, Maguire’s talents have come to the fore, abolishing the misconception that he’s simply a big bruising Yorkshireman who likes to stick his head on things, his ability to carry the ball out of defence has been vital to the Three Lions’ success.
Maguire has had a remarkable rise to prominence and it is clear that when given an opportunity, no matter how big or small, he will make the most of it. If given the chance to play under the bright lights of Old Trafford, a player who’s grasped every opportunity he’s been given, could take his career to heights the youngster stood in the stands in France, could only dream of.