IAN HERBERT: Harry Maguire was supposed to be the sensible one

IAN HERBERT: Harry Maguire was supposed to be the sensible one… rarely has a footballer’s holiday had more disastrous consequences

  • Harry Maguire’s holiday is fine line between harmony and calamity for celebrity
  • The Manchester United centre back was arrested after an altercation in Greece
  • He spent two nights behind bars after reacting to taunts from an unknown group
  • Maguire’s not guilty plea will be a huge factor for Man United for the future 

A 40-second clip of Harry Maguire, taken hours before his world imploded, says everything about the fine line between harmony and calamity for a celebrity who chooses to spend a week in the full public glare on Mykonos, the Greek island which has been considered the new Ibiza for several years now.

Maguire appears convivial, fist-bumping someone he seems just to have met in a bar. They throw arms around each other’s shoulders. He makes to leave the scene when some football chanting starts but finds a place on the periphery of things to look at his phone. The chanting grows louder. Some gesturing starts. This time, he walks briskly away.

The location is close to the SantAnna poolside bar, essential territory on Mykonos this summer for any self-respecting, attention-seeking Love Island contestant and many more celebrities beside. The bar is where Maguire, sometimes in his black, star-speckled short-sleeved T-shirt, sometimes bare-chested, was visible for most of Thursday afternoon before his group moved on to Bonbonniere, a nightclub in Mykonos’ Fabrika district, where the trouble started.

Harry Maguire’s holiday from hell has showcased the fine line between harmony and calamity


Maguire was filmed in Bonbonniere, a nightclub in Mykonos, where the trouble started

Details remain sketchy but one or more groups of Englishmen took the opportunity on at least three occasions across the course of that afternoon and evening to bait Maguire and his entourage with unflattering chants about Manchester United. One British witness, Sam Moore, said he had heard them issuing Munich chants.

Some of the others in Maguire group, rather than the player himself, ultimately seem to have tired of this taunting, at or round midnight. Events moved fast but a dispute over the abuse seems to have been the catalyst for someone striking Maguire’s younger sister, Daisy, with a sharp object, drawing blood. This provoked an incensed Maguire to leap to her defence. By then, drink — Jack Daniel’s, Hennessy Cognac and Ciroc Vodka — had very much been taken.

The outcome, after the nightmare of two nights behind bars, was Maguire’s emergence at 11am local time on Saturday from a cell at the police station in Hermoupolis, on the island of Syros, for the short drive in one of two police vehicles to the local Syros courthouse.

Thursday afternoon

Manchester United star Harry Maguire is pictured downing shots and bottles of champagne at the swanky SantAnna Bar. Tempers get frayed, there is a scuffle, and security ushers Maguire’s group off the premises.

Thursday evening

Maguire and mates — including his sister Daisy — visit the exclusive Bonbonniere Bar before having to leave at midnight because of a local coronavirus curfew.

Early Friday morning

A brawl kicks off outside the club with claims that Maguire was provoked by anti-United chanting from drunk Brits. His sister Daisy is allegedly stabbed in the arm. Local police rush to the scene and the violence escalates. Hellenic Police report the three men resisted by ‘pushing and beating’ officers.

Friday morning

Maguire is thrown in a cell in Mykonos.

Friday afternoon

Manchester United issue a statement saying they are aware of the incident and that the 27-year-old is fully co-operating with the Greek authorities.

Saturday morning

Maguire and two friends, aged 28 and 29, appear before Greek prosecutors on the neighbouring island of Syros. He pleads not guilty to two charges, the case is adjourned until Tuesday with Maguire free to fly home.

No journalists were permitted at the two-hour hearing which ensued. But sources suggest that Maguire told the local public prosecutor that the entire incident took place because he and others were provoked by another British group who were insulting their female companions and had caused injury caused to his sister’s hand. 

After the hearing, Maguire was brought out into the blistering Greek heat and escorted to an awaiting Audi transporter. More extrovert players might have protested their innocence there and then but Maguire has been so devastated that his father Alan, patriarch of the modest South Yorkshire family for whom these events are utterly anathema, flew out to be at his side. The player marched to the car, head down.

Manchester United will not prejudice the case — to be resumed before the Syros courthouse on Tuesday morning as Gareth Southgate is naming his England squad — but it is already clear that Maguire’s track record as an individual without ego stands him in good stead with the club. Though the charges are serious, United consider his not guilty plea and mitigating factors to be significant. They have appointed an Athens-based lawyer to mount the player’s defence.

Maguire’s reputation certainly precedes him. He is liked within the game. It was Jamie Vardy who coined the nickname ‘Slabhead’ for Maguire because of the large size of his head and, inversely, his small ego, as well as a certain blandness.

The image of him leaning over a crowd barrier, nonchalantly chatting to what people assumed was a female England fan in the crowd after England’s last-16 win over Colombia in the 2018 World Cup, offered such good wind-up potential that Kyle Walker, fellow Sheffield United fan and England defensive partner, has tweeted it twice.

‘So a good header doesn’t hurt … Know what I mean love?’ read his first tweet. It transpired that the fan was Maguire’s partner and mother of their two children, Fern Hawkins, who has been out in Mykonos with him.

He is also a player with whom fans empathise, despite the £80million move to Manchester United last summer which made him England’s most expensive footballer.

He seems one of them — a supporter who travelled to France to watch the England team at Euro 2016 and had to make do with a dismal 0-0 draw with Slovakia. There was no glamour about his choice of clubs — Sheffield United, Hull City, Wigan Athletic and Leicester City — before United came calling. 

Though the charges are serious, Man United consider his non-guilty plea to be significant

Maguire is liked within the game, and team-mates have poked fun at a photo of him in 2018

Of course, he was not part of one of the most recognisable cohorts of players on earth during that journey. And the world is also more an all-seeing, unsparing place than it was in the days when Roy Keane, another Manchester United captain, would enjoy spectacular post-match drinking sessions at the Four Seasons Hotel, proceeded by a few in the Mulligans Irish bar, and be regularly booted, inebriated, out of Manchester joints.

The most generous interpretation of Maguire’s decision to holiday on Mykonos, a narcissistic haven where people go to be seen, is that he was naïve. Yet how he could fail to appreciate that a Manchester United captain would be a target for the envious, spiteful and intellectually-challenged detritus football can attract, is hard to comprehend.

Even Wayne Rooney, no angel at moments of prolonged inactivity such as this, takes himself and the family off to the relative seclusion of Barbados. Maguire opted to put himself right out there, in the company of those who are fond of doing likewise — Love Island star Chris Hughes and snooker’s Judd Trump, as well as team-mates Jesse Lingard and Brandon Williams. Particularly odd for a 27-year-old father-of-two with family in tow.

Maguire was due to fly home from Athens late on Saturday, by which time sources on Syros had pointed out that the gravity of the situation had eased. Charges against him and two co-defendants were ‘misdemeanours’ rather than crimes, which means he will not have return to the island 48 hours from now. Discussions of which Greek prisons might accommodate him had receded. 

Maguire was naive to go to Mykonos, a narcissistic haven where people go to be seen

His solicitors Eleni Karygianni and Konstantinos Darivas, since replaced by United’s lawyer, are thought to have argued that Maguire’s alleged attempt to bribe Greek police officers at the scene was, in fact, a request to settle the mess with an on-the-spot payment. And that the police’s presence in plain clothes created confusion at the scene, rendering the allegation of assaulting officers unreasonable and unfair.

But the noise will not abate any time soon. The controversy will dominate England manager Southgate’s press conference next week, following his announcement on Tuesday for the Nations League fixtures against Iceland and Denmark.

Though United’s squad report back to training on that day, the international players are to head straight for England duty. With the case unsettled, it seems unthinkable that Maguire will be selected by a manager who has been tough on misdemeanours in cases of Raheem Sterling and Rooney in the past.

After an unconvincing few months for United’s defence since football’s re-start, the controversy will also concern Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Maguire will wonder how it could have happened. Rarely has a footballer’s family holiday had more disastrous consequences.




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