SHEFFIELD UNITED: Harry Maguire stands on the brink of history with Blades

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TWELVE months ago he was taking his first tentative steps in professional football.

Today Harry Maguire, Sheffield United’s teenage centre-half, stands on the brink of history.

Should Danny Wilson’s side win this afternoon’s League One play-off final at Wembley then Maguire, who is expected to be handed the task of shackling Huddersfield Town striker Jordan Rhodes, will complete a journey so remarkable it could have been torn straight from the pages of a Boys’ Own annual.

Lose and the 19-year-old, despite being denied the opportunity to establish himself in the Championship, can still reflect on his first full season as a member of United’s senior squad with immense satisfaction.

“It’s been fantastic. You go places and people recognise you,” he said. “I feel privileged and it’s hard to believe what has happened since I was playing at youth level last term.

“It’s extra special being a local lad. I stood on The Kop as a kid and was a ball boy for a good few years as well.

“I did that throughout my scholarship here so it wasn’t actually that long ago.

“I used to sit just behind the away end.

“Everything has happened so quickly I haven’t had a chance to get nervous.”

Off-the-pitch Maguire’s head might be a blur.

On it, however, he has performed with the composure of a time-served veteran.

Plucked from the academy by Danny Wilson’s predecessor Micky Adams as United spiralled inexorably towards relegation last season, he has flourished under the former Northern Ireland international’s tutelage.

“The gaffer has been different class with me,” Maguire said. “He showed confidence in me right from the start and that, in turn, gave me great belief.

“It’s incredible to have played so much. The only games I’ve missed have been when I was suspended.

“That shows the gaffer has got trust in me and I thank him for that.”

“I just take every game as it comes and try to do my best,” Maguire added. “People keep saying that I might need a rest by I feel fresh.”

Which, from United’s perspective, is just as well.

Together with fellow defender Neill Collins, who he also cites as a “massive influence” on his career, Maguire’s priority against Simon Grayson’s side will be to nullify the threat posed by 40 goal marksman Rhodes and likely partner Lee Novak.

“To play in the Championship would be a massive step up,” Maguire said. “We all know what happened last year and it was really disappointing to go down.

“Next season we want to be back there.

“We know that Huddersfield will be a tough side.

“We have a difficult game coming up, the same as Huddersfield do, and we need to focus on it.”

“I’ve dreamed all my life about playing at Wembley,” Maguire continued. “My family are all Blades fans and they’ve supported me throughout my life.

“I can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done.

“I may as well retire at the end of the season because it’s been the best year of my life.”

Hopefully the next 12 months will be even better.

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