Rising star Maguire is happy to develop with Blades

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HARRY MAGUIRE was not even born when Stuart Pearce infamously wrote himself into English football folklore.

It was the World Cup of 1990 and the Nottingham Forest full-back missed a crucial penalty, along with Chris Waddle, which saw England’s glory hopes ended against West Germany.

So when Sheffield United’s 19-year-old centre-back Maguire talks in such glowing terms about the modern-day Pearce, it serves to remind us of the still tender years of the Blades defender, who, in a whirlwind two years, has become part of the furniture at Bramall Lane.

Maguire met national coach Pearce this week after being called up for his England Under-21 debut, an impressive feat for a player who has learned his craft in the relative backwaters of League One and only made his Blades debut in April last year.

While many of his new international team-mates are on Premier League wages, the greatest compliment Maguire can be paid is that he did not look 
out of place against Northern Ireland.

A product of the Blades Academy, Maguire was thrilled to spend time being coached by Pearce, who was himself a fierce defender in the Nineties.

“He was a great player and he is a great coach,” said Maguire. “He took training on Monday and came up with some great defensive points.

“He’s a great coach and that’s why he’s working at that level.

“There were nerves beforehand. We got picked up in a car, with three lads I didn’t know, and there were nerves like it was the first day at school.

“But the lads welcomed me and coaching staff were good.

“It was just nice to be in a different set-up. Thoughout my career I have only known one dressing room, one voice and to hear another person in Stuart Pearce, it was nice to take other information on board.

“Obviously, he was a top player in his time and he knows what he is talking about. It was good to see what happens in other environments.

“There were always going to be some differences, maybe training with England was not as physical as training at Sheffield United. But there are some great players in the England camp, super abilities like Josh McEachran, who has great potential to play for the senior squad. Being there is something you aspire to, the senior level, especially.

“Playing for the Under-21s is a great achievement considering I am only 19 years old and, hopefully, there’s more to come.”

Whether that is with the Blades or at a Premier League club is open to conjecture, but while club manager Danny Wilson accepts Maguire’s international call-up can only add extra value to a player he rates highly, the player himself is committed to playing for his home-town club.

Playing first-team football rather than sitting in the stands at a Premier League club is key to Maguire’s thinking.

“I feel like I need to be playing games at my age, getting experience,” he said. “I have played quite a lot of games now and think I am getting better with the experience. Hopefully, I can keep playing and take this club back up to where it belongs.

“As a centre-half, you need to be playing games, getting experience because that improves you so much in my position. The main thing for me is playing games at this moment in time.”

Maguire came on as a second-half substitute at Bloomfield Road with England in control, although the Sheffield-born defender was just relieved to come through unscathed.

“It was very pleasing, a very proud moment both for me and my family. It was fairly comfortable from start to finish as England really controlled the game. I didn’t really have much to do and was just glad to come off without making a mistake.

“It’s always hard coming on as a substitute in a defensive position during a game, everyone will tell you that, you only get noticed if you make a mistake or do something really bad.

“You just have to concentrate and get up to the pace of the game straightaway. I felt like I did that fairly well. After the game, Stuart Pearce came in the changing room and and told everyone ‘well done’. I think they have won every game this calendar year, so it’s a great achievement for them.

“He shook everyone’s hand and said next time he will see me is February so have a good Christmas.

“He just wants me to keep playing games, doing my best at club level and that starts Saturday.

“Everyone’s ambition is to play for their country, and, if you do, it is an unbelievable achievement.”

Maguire returns to club action today when the Blades host Stevenage for the first time since they beat the Hertfordshire club in the League One play-offs last season.

United will be looking to bounce back after a late penalty against MK Dons last weekend halted their impressive unbeaten start to the League One season.

Maguire, who has formed a formidable partnership with Neill Collins at the heart of the defence this season, believes their opponents will once again be one of the Blades’ promotion rivals.

“Stevenage is going to be a tough game,” he said. “We played them in the play-offs last year and felt we were fairly solid against them. Hopefully, we can keep another clean sheet like we did in the two play-off games.

“They have a good squad and I expect to see them pushing for promotion again.

“The way we lost the game last week at MK Dons we thought was harsh, it ended our unbeaten run but it was never about that, just about taking each game as it comes and taking maximum points.”

While no silverware is won before Christmas, the Blades can celebrate a double awards achievement. Manager Wilson has won the League One October manager of the month award and goalkeeper George Long, 19, has won the divisional player award.

United were unbeaten in October, winning six and drawing once.

richard.hercock@ypn.co.uk