NEILL Collins has paid tribute to Sheffield United ace Harry Maguire, describing the teenage centre-back as a “fantastic prospect”.
Maguire starred in Sheffield United’s march to the FA Youth Cup final in May, his consistent form at junior level earning a call up to the senior squad towards the end of last season.
With Chris Morgan a long-term absentee, Blades boss Danny Wilson has opted to pair Collins and Maguire at the heart of his defence in all eight of the team’s outings. Right-back Matthew Lowton is also an ever present while summer signing Lecsinel Jean-Francois and goalkeeper Steve Simonsen were left out of the side for the first time in the come-from-behind victory at Burton Albion in midweek.
Both Collins and Maguire caught the eye in a hectic August programme as United kept three clean sheets. In fact, on the eve of his side’s trip to Yeovil Town, Wilson gave a glowing critique of the defensive duo’s performances, claiming the double act are the best central defensive partnership in the division.
“Without putting too much pressure on Harry because he has already got enough on his shoulders, he is doing exceptionally well for such a young lad,” Collins told The Star. “He is developing exceptionally well and is doing it in the best place possible in the first team.
“There aren’t enough young lads who get an opportunity to play in the first team nowadays. I have been very impressed with him. There will be ups and downs for Harry just like there is for every young player.
“There will be days when it won’t work but in terms of the future, Harry is a fantastic prospect.”
He added: “The important thing for me and Harry is to keep on developing a partnership. I don’t think we had any partnerships across the team last season so it is good we have developed one. If we get partnerships in the team, that is a good thing.”
As an influential member of United’s dressing room, Collins acknowledges that he has a significant role to play in helping the next generation come through at United.
He said: “I was probably different to Harry at that age. I was louder and more up front. I have always seen myself as a leader. We have got a few leaders here and that is another reason why I think we can do well this year. It is important all the young lads can look at experienced players and see how we train and look after ourselves.
“That’s when a young player will realise what they have to do to make a professional career out of the game.”