Sheffield United Fan's Column: Grounded Harry Maguire was always destined for big things

I see that Harry Maguire got a bit of attention on Match of the Day 2 last Sunday.

Thursday, 26th January 2017, 11:00 pm
Updated Friday, 27th January 2017, 8:46 am
Harry Maguire came through Sheffield United's youth system ©BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

I see that Harry Maguire got a bit of attention on Match of the Day 2 last Sunday. The Premier League is finally recognising what we all knew he could do several years ago. Harry was United’s best player in the 2011 Youth Cup final team and it was obvious from a mile off that he had the ability to make it to the top. What we didn’t know then was whether the distractions that afflict so many young players and constrain their progress would hinder him.

But after three seasons of steady improvement we knew that if United couldn’t win promotion he would not be at the Lane much longer. Those three seasons saw him make the PFA League One Team of the Season three times, and although there were a couple of steps back under David Weir, Harry was destined for bigger things. A friend whose son does part-time scouting for Manchester United said they were looking at him, but word came back that although they liked the way Harry could carry the ball out of defence they thought him too bulky and unathletic.

But after United played Hull City in the 2014 FA Cup final Steve Bruce believed he was worth a punt. It took a while for Bruce to place any real trust in Harry, selecting him only for cup games. He played well in a live TV FA Cup game at Arsenal but was out of the Premier League team the following week. Soon afterwards he was farmed out to Wigan on loan, so ended up playing for two relegation teams in the same season. He wasn’t even a first choice in Hull’s 2015/16 promotion team, and only came on as a late sub in the play-of final win against ... who was it again?

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Hull’s internal troubles and threadbare squad meant that new manager Mike Phelan had little choice but to pick him. Playing regularly looks to have brought on Harry’s game a treat. Earlier in the season I read a comment from a Hull fan that said he was good at bringing the ball out of defence but was too slow. Then a few weeks ago I heard that Gareth Southgate had people watching him. Then last Sunday night we had Martin Keown and Danny Murphy singing his praises: “As good a central defensive performance as I’ve seen” ... “This is awesome” ... “There’s a calmness in his play” ... “He was really outstanding” ... “He was exceptional” ... “It’s the best centre half performance I’ve seen this season”. If Harry keeps this up he’ll be moving on to a bigger club and following fellow former Blades Phil Jagielka and Kyle Walker into the England team.

And he appears on the face of it to remain a grounded sort of bloke. He’s occasionally spotted at Blades away matches sitting with the fans and not in the posh seats, and also now and then in town on a Saturday night with his girlfriend and another couple, keeping a low profile and not courting attention. That’s how we like to see our former players - doing well but letting it go to their heads.