How Harry Maguire went from blunderer to Mr Impeccable: Since THAT infamous Greek holiday and red card against Denmark, the England defender has been superb and showed against the Czechs why Southgate was desperate to bring him to the Euros
- Harry Maguire bounced back from difficulty to re-establish himself for England
- Maguire was sent off v Denmark last year during a challenging period for him
- The defender was reeling from an assault conviction but has bounced back
- Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here
In the middle of last October on a cold night in an empty Wembley Stadium, Harry Maguire was waved from the field by a referee’s red card.
Only 31 minutes of a Nations League tie against Denmark had gone but to Maguire it must have felt like a lifetime. Every touch of the ball had been poor, every challenge late. When the second yellow card emerged from the referee’s pocket, it felt a little like a mercy killing.
It is never nice to see a good bloke suffer and it certainly wasn’t pleasant that night. Maguire, at the time still reeling from an assault conviction on the Greek island of Mykonos, looked for all the world as though he needed a rest, some time away from the spotlight.
Harry Maguire has bounced back from his struggles and is a key figure for England
But sportsmen and women can be an awful lot tougher than that. Not all, but many. Maguire, it seems, falls in to the latter category. Far from taking time out, he went straight from the Denmark game to captain Manchester United at Newcastle that weekend.
United were in the middle of a crisis of their own and needed their £85million defender. They had lost their previous game 6-1 at home to Tottenham and were a goal down at St James’ Park after two minutes. Captain Maguire scored the equaliser and his team went on to win 4-1.
From that moment until injury felled him late on in the campaign, Maguire was pretty much impeccable — just as he was when playing his first game of Euro 2020 against the Czech Republic.
Maguire was sent off against Denmark last year during what was a challenging period for him
The England defender had a turbulent summer last year after he was arrested in Greece
Manager Gareth Southgate was questioned in some quarters for his decision to select two injured players for his squad — Maguire and Jordan Henderson. Anybody who watched Tuesday’s game – when a goal conceded would have made the difference between first and second place in the group – will now know why he did it.
Asked about Maguire on Friday, West Ham’s own captain Declan Rice declared: ‘He’s unbelievable. From the first time that I met H, he was top. Top with me, top with the lads. He’s had a tough year but I think that proves how mentally strong he actually is.
‘He went through something tough but still played games and then he got sent off and that was a tough point but we still knew how good he was.
‘There was a lot of criticism from fans, from pundits, from the media saying, “Is he worthy of playing for England? Is he worthy of being Manchester United captain?”. The performance the other night shows you that and how he was before his injury at United has shown you that.
‘He is crucial to us. He’s a leader, he’s strong, he’s unbelievable on the ball, he plays great passes into the middle.
No one can now question Gareth Southgate’s decision to include Maguire in his Euro 2020 squad after his performance in the win over the Czech Republic
Declan Rice described Maguire as ‘a leader’ and added that he is ‘really tough’ to play against
‘To play against, he’s always really tough because you know what you are up against. To play with, he is special. He’s always talking to you, always giving you the ball.
‘As a holding midfielder, you want someone behind you like H and John Stones. They are always encouraging, always talking, they are world class centre halves.
‘I can’t speak highly enough of H. He’s just an all-round top family man.’
It was while on holiday with his family in August that Maguire was arrested and found guilty of assault and attempted bribery via a hastily arranged court hearing. The 28-year-old has always denied the charges and an appeal will be heard, in all likelihood next year.
Southgate has always stood by him, as has United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who missed his captain when an ankle injury ruled him out of the latter stages of the season.
Maguire will certainly play against Germany. There will be 45,000 supporters in to see the game. The damp, miserable, empty night that ended in defeat by Denmark in late autumn will feel like an awfully long time ago.
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