Maguire World Cup dream closer as ex-Sheffield United stars lead South Yorkshire's Fab Five in England triumph, a remarkable feat for the football crazy region

England fab five all made in South Yorkshire including former Sheffield United finds Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker

ENGLAND’S 1-0 victory at the newly named Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam wasn’t just remarkable for the quality of performance. At one point half of the outfield players in the friendly against Holland were born and bred in South Yorkshire.

Two former Blades, Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire, lifelong Sheffield United fans, were joined by John Stones, Danny Rose, and Jamie Vardy.

Maguire, who came on as a ninth-minute substitute for Liverpool’s Joe Gomez to claim his fourth cap, Walker and Vardy were of course all brought up in Sheffield. Rose is from Doncaster and Stones hails from Thurlstone near Barnsley. For good measure, York-born Lewis Cook, Bournemouth's 21-year-old midfielder who began his career at Leeds, was an unused sub. Should Cook play in this week's friendly against Italy at Wembley it will earn his grandfather Trevor Bingham £17,000 who placed a bet in 2014 on grandson Lewis playing for England before his 26th birthday.

Maguire, winning his fourth cap, reaffirmed his claim for a starting role at this summer’s World Cup Finals in Russia with the kind of sure-footed performance which made him such a favourite at Bramall Lane. He was substituted himself in the 89th minute after pulling a hamstring which will keep him out of the encounter against Italy.

Manager Gareth Southgate said: “Maguire was just a bit tight in his hamstring. We didn't ideally want him to play that long because he had extra time {for Leicester in the FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Chelsea} and hadn't really trained with the group until Wednesday. Although I have to say I thought his performance was outstanding. I think he's a top player, a really good player.”


Probably under instruction from Southgate, who won 57 caps playing in central defence for his country, Maguire’s natural inclination to drive forward from the back has been reigned in a little on international duty.

The 6ft 4ins centre-half, just turned 25, made an almost effortless-looking transition to Premier League football when he left the Lane for Hull City in 2014, and is now well established at Leicester City. United sold him for £2.5million. Three seasons later Hull made a healthy profit from Maguire’s £17million move to the Foxes.

Some thought at the time, despite the giant leap in class, he was selling himself short by accepting newly-promoted Hull’s offer. Leicester is a much better fit but one can’t help but feel Maguire would be a perfect match in the defences of any of the Premier League’s top six. 

Former Barnsley central defender Stones, a similarly elegant player with fleet of foot, but who lacks the physical presence of Maguire, suits Pep Guardiola’s school of excellence at Manchester City. 

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are crying out for defensive stability. Again, ball-playing Maguire who is so much more than a traditional centre-half would surely solve a problem position for them and fit into Klopp's pressing style .

Arsenal, experiencing greater difficulties recreating their version of the beautiful game, is another club where Maguire’s cultured feet and football brain would excel.


Rose, meanwhile, who is re-establishing his place at Tottenham following injury, did his World Cup chances a power of good with an energetic performance as a left wing-back in Southgate’s 3-1-4-2 formation. On the opposite side Manchester City right-back Walker produced another assured showing. Although unaccustomed to role of playing as a right centre-back his renowned ability to push forward with pace is tailor-made to overlap with wing-back Kieran Trippier gave England another option.

Vardy, who still must wake up in the morning and pinch himself after a wonderful rags to riches story, replaced Marcus Rashford with 22 minutes remaining and not once had an opportunity to touch the ball. 

“I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before, but I did do a lot of running,” said the Leicester City striker. “I came on at a time when Holland were trying to get a goal back. As a striker you do sometimes have to sacrifice and we just want to make sure we attack as a team and defend as a team, so I had to help out the midfield as well.”

It was Vardy’s 20th international cap less than six years after playing Conference football at the age of 26. Released by Sheffield Wedneday, the team he supports, as a teenager and working his way through Stocksbridge Park Steels, FC Halifax Town in the Northern Premier League and 31 goals to help Conference club Fleetwood Town into the Football League. That earned Vardy a surprise £1million move to Leicester in 2012 where the dream continued beyond his wildest dreams to win a Premier League title-winner’s medal. Now, as expected if named in the squad for Russia this summer,  he is set to play in a World Cup.

A real life Roy of the Rovers story that is unlikely to be equalled. Maguire’s story is a little more conventional but the man who famously turned up for a first full England training camp last August with his kit in a bin bag is now looking more Louis Vuitton than Matalan.