‘Arise, Sir Slabhead!’: England’s rock Harry Maguire has unique connection with fans

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3-min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

As the last trains were pulling out of Wembley Park following England’s titanic win against Denmark, one name was being sung more than any other.

Not match-winner, captain and talisman Harry Kane. And not Jack Grealish either, despite his cult status. No, it was old “Slabhead” himself, Harry Maguire, who has developed a unique connection with England supporters, which eclipses even the regard held by his club fans at Manchester United.

It is a curious relationship that seems to go beyond his performances. It is about more than just his emergence as a leader for Gareth Southgate’s team and heir to the throne of previous great England centre backs from Rio Ferdinand and John Terry to Tony Adams and Terry Butcher. Maguire bears all the hallmarks that would make him easy for tribal fans to dislike, even when representing his country.

He plays for United for a start, which is reason enough for many to reject him. His £80million price tag is another potential target for abuse. While his decision to walk away from Leicester for the bright lights of Old Trafford could give rise to accusations of him “selling out” or chasing glory.

Yet Maguire remains golden in the eyes of England’s hardcore. He is a relatable superstar, who never forgot his roots — as shown when he delivered shopping to elderly residents of his hometown in Mosborough during the first Covid lockdown.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

He was also instrumental in the initiative from Premier League footballers to raise money for the NHS. All very worthy, but not enough to become an icon in the manner he has. That owes more to the fact he is a player befitting of the chant: “one of our own.” If Maguire was not on the pitch orchestrating England’s defence, he would be in the crowd conducting choruses of “Sweet Caroline” and “It’s Coming Home.”

The last time England were in a Euros — five years ago in France — Maguire was out there as a fan, with friends and family, cheering on the Three Lions.

Weeks earlier he had helped Hull secure promotion to the top flight and two years later he was heading England into the World Cup semi-final.

The fact Maguire has developed into a supreme centre-back over that period is a happy coincidence. His performances against Germany, Ukraine and then Denmark on Wednesday fully justified Southgate’s decision to take a risk on him after ankle ligament damage ended his season in early May.

There simply is no replacement for Maguire in this England team. No one who organises the defence as well, improves the performances of those around him as effectively or strides up the pitch to build from the back.

Maguire is colossal in the air — cultured on the ground. He epitomises the way Southgate wants this modern England team to play.

Would he have broken up the partnership of Terry and Ferdinand? Probably not. But he is arguably more important to this current England than either of that duo were in their time.

He is the platform on which Southgate’s side is built, taking the ball from Jordan Pickford and acting like a playmaker from the back, given England limited creativity in midfield.

He was imperious against Denmark and it is no coincidence that England’s performances have improved since his return from injury in the final group game against Czech Republic.

On Sunday he will be at the opposite end of the pitch to two of the greatest central defenders of their generation in Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci at a combined age of 70.

Set pieces at either end could be worth the admission fee alone. But this could be Maguire’s chance to truly establish himself as a defender of the standing to compare to those Italian legends and cement his place in England folklore.

Read More

Here come the Italian stallions but can England actually beat them?

Euros Final news LIVE! Italy vs England latest updates and build-up

London Zoo’s ‘mystic meerkats’ predict England to beat Italy in Euros Final

Euros Final touts selling England vs Italy tickets for £15,000 online

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting