Neill Collins on why ex-Blade Maguire is set for very top as defender faces biggest test in Hull City shirt

Ex-Blade Harry Maguire can go all way to top says former teammate Neill Collins

UPDATE: Maguire played in goalless draw which lifted Hull City off bottom of the table. 

HARRY MAGUIRE has suddenly emerged as one of the hottest properties in the Premier League. His performances for Hull City are finally winning the 23-year-old former Sheffield United central defender extraordinary plaudits from some of the most revered names in football. The transfer deadline has gone but tonight, if passed fit, at Old Trafford he goes back into the shop window on the biggest stage.

Such is his growing reputation, relegation-threatened Hull boss Marco Silva was forced to issue a ‘not for sale’ notice to clubs circling the KCOM Stadium as the window drew towards a close. West Ham were reported to have prepared a £9million bid. Manchester City, whose coach Pep Guardiola favours ball-playing defenders, Everton and Southampton were among those known to be interested. A move to football's upper echelons will surely follow in the summer.

Playing alongside Harry I formed the best partnership of my career.
— Neill Collins

News of which comes as nothing more than what was expected by Neill Collins, another former Blade now at United Soccer League club Tampa Bay Rowdies in the US. He recognised very early on what a golden future awaited the Sheffield-born youngster who came through United’s Academy to establish himself as a truly outstanding find and form a rock-solid partnership with the Scot. Youth alongside experience complimenting each other.

“It is of no surprise to me that people are starting to sit up and take notice of big Harry's performances,” Collins told ViewFromTheJohnStreet.com from his home in Florida.

“The only surprise is that it has taken so long. Why more clubs didn't try to sign him when he left us was unbelievable. For a young centre-back to have played the number of games Harry had at such a young age was phenomenal. Especially considering there were huge performances in some big games like the League One play-off final (against Huddersfield Town at Wembley which the Terriers won on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes) and the FA Cup semi-final (a 5-3 defeat to Hull, also at Wembley).

FOND MEMORIES

Collins, now 33 made 216 appearances for United before leaving the Lane last March, and has fond memories of Maguire, named Blades player of the season for three successive years. Maguire made 166 appearances in all competitions and scored 12 goals before former Hull boss Steve Bruce, a renowned, top class central defender himself at Manchester United, paid £2.5million for him in the summer of 2014.

“Playing alongside Harry I formed the best partnership of my career and that was down largely to Harry being a great listener and always willing to learn,” said Collins. “This is one of the main reasons he has progressed.

“He can play out from the back as well as anyone and there is not a stronger player in British football. Who can forget him bullying Christian Benteke in our FA Cup third round win at Villa Park. There is no reason why he can't go on to emulate what Gary Cahill has achieved and play for a big club at the top of the Premiership.

“That’s if he keeps his feet on the ground, which I am sure he will as he's so laid back he's almost horizontal.”

Martin Keown, who twice won the league and cup double with Arsenal and has 43 England caps in his loft, was blown away by Maguire’s recent display at Chelsea, the Premier League title favourites.

“Harry Maguire today is as good a central defensive performance as I've seen,” said Keown who revealed he has been an admirer for some time.

“We know he can tackle, he's got that in the locker when he was at Sheffield United for many years. He is quick, he is strong; honestly I've not seen a centre-half play this well.”

AWESOME

Keown added: “He was awesome. So powerful and Diego Costa knew he was in a game today. There is calmness in his play. Left foot right foot. Costa, the best striker in the Premier League is breathing down his neck, so what? On a difficult day I thought Maguire was really outstanding. He is there to head the ball but there is an awful lot more to his game and he deserves the credit.”

Harry Maguire today is as good a central defensive performance as I’ve seen
— Ex Arsenal and England defender Martin Keown

Former England and Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy agreed. “Martin told me to keep an eye out for him but I didn't have to he was that good. It's the best centre half performance I've seen this season.”

It has been far from plain sailing for Maguire at Hull. He made his debut playing the entire Europa League play-off first leg defeat at Belgian side Lokeren, but was limited to just another five matches before being loaned to Championship Wigan for the remainder of the season. Four of them from the bench. His only other start was at Arsenal in the FA Cup.

He returned from Wigan having experienced relegation from the Championship with them. Something he also had on his CV with the Blades. Hull, in his absence, had been relegated from the top flight. It all looked rather downbeat and there were some who believed Maguire had been too hasty with his decision to leave Bramall Lane. If he had stayed for another season and continued to be a leading light, his options for a move to the top flight would have been greater.

REASSERTED

That may be true. With all due respect to Hull, they are not a club associated with the finer aspects of football. More muck and bullets and a readiness to dig in for a fight. Maguire’s arrival coincided with disruption in the boardroom and now a pending sale making Humberside an unhappy place. But Maguire reasserted himself to become an integral part of his club’s immediate return to the Premier League via the play-offs. Made sweeter for Blades fans as it was at the expense of Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley.

Former Blades Hull striker Dean Windass is another who has witnessed Maguire at close quarters. “He is a good footballer and he can bring the ball out from the back,” said Windass. “He reminds me of a young Rio Ferdinand who is very comfortable passing the ball.”

Hull go to the North-West bottom of the Premier League table, five points adrift from safety. Boss Silva has already seen the heart of his team, midfielders Robert Snodgrass (£10.2m move to West Ham) and Jake Livermore (£10m to West Brom), leave in the transfer window and was adamant Maguire won’t be following them. “It is impossible that Maguire leaves the club,” said the Portuguese who replaced Mike Phelan at the beginning of January.

Tonight Maguire, fitness allowing, will face one of his toughest tests on a stage that befits his talent as beleaguered Hull face the prospect of a harrowing 90 minutes against Mourinho’s Manchester United at Old Trafford. It could well be a defining moment for the former Blade. Jose and Pep are sure to be making notes.