HARRY MAGUIRE had to be game for a laugh this week as Leicester City prepared for the FA Cup visit of former club Sheffield United. But the England international centre-half, a Blades fan, has reminded Premier League teammates that Chris Wilder and his team are no joking matter,
especially with a quarter-final place at stake.
Maguire speaks from experience having watched a good number of United’s performances this season, including the Steel City derby win at Hillsborough from a vantage point at the back of the Leppings Lane end.
“They’re a good team. Chris Wilder has come in and they’ve started the season really well,” said the 6ft 2in defender who made 169 appearances in all competitions, scoring 12 goals, for the Blades before a £2.5million move to then Premier League Hull in the summer of 2014.
“They’ve been a little bit unfortunate in recent weeks. I’ve watched quite a lot of their performances this season. They pass the ball around really nicely and they play a 3-5-2 formation which is hard to deal.
“We know it’s going to be a tough game. They’ve got some good players, even from my time when I was there. We’ll have our hands full and we need to be on our game to get to the next round.”
Leicester’s Sheffield Wednesday-loving striker and fellow England international Jamie Vardy, in an effort to embarrass Maguire, is mischeviously claiming he is a Wednesday fan at heart. Prompting the defender to issue a denial but who nevertheless does not contest that as a youngster he was sometimes taken to Hillsborough.
“He always plays around saying that,” said Maguire. “When I was a young boy, my dad supported Sheffield Wednesday and my mum supported Sheffield United. When I was about 10 years-old my dad used to take me to a couple of games but ever since I played for Sheffield United I’ve supported them.” He added pointedly: “I began playing for them when I was 11 years-old.”
Maguire, who appeared at Bramall Lane earlier this season in Leicester's 4-1 EFL Cup win, recalled: “I was a ball boy week in, week out at Bramall Lane from when I was 14 until 16 or 17. Then I broke in and made my debut. It’s a great club and I thank them a lot because they’ve done so much for my career.
“I joined when I was 11 years-old and it was great time for me. I came across some great coaches who brought me on leaps and bounds. I’ve learnt so much from them.
“We had a good team and one of my best memories was when I was in the FA Youth Cup as a second-year scholar and we got all the way to the final. We played Manchester United over two legs. They had a great team, the likes of Paul Pogba, Ravel Morrison and Jesse Lingard were all playing."
Remarkably, just short of 30,000 fans packed into the Lane for the first leg of that final which was finished 2-2. All the more remarkable as the senior side had just been relegated to League One. The Blades scorers that night were Callum McFadzean and Jordan Slew with two wonderful goals. Maguire was caught out by a young Lingard, now wowing Jose Mourinho’s Old Trafford, who gave the Reds an early lead. United lost the second leg 4-1 (6-3 on agg).
“We got beat in the final, but it was a very valuable time for me and it was something that I did learn from. It was a great experience,” added Maguire who is guaranteed a great reception from Blades fans at the King Power Stadium.