Manager Gareth Southgate last night confirmed the centre-back from Sheffield will feature in the European Championship group game against Scotland having recovered from ankle ligament damage which kept him out of the Europa League final.
Whether the 28-year-old will start remains to be seen having not played any competitive football since picking up the injury on May 9, and with Tyrone Mings deputising impressively in a defence which performed well to keep a clean sheet against Croatia in Sunday’s opening game.
Nevertheless, the mere fact the team’s defensive leader is ready to compete for a place was a welcome boost for England, for whom victory this evening would guarantee qualification for the knockout stages regardless of the result of the earlier Croatia versus Czech Republic game.
“Harry will be involved,” confirmed Southgate. “The decision we’ve got to make is whether he’s ready to start but we’re really pleased with his progress. His trained with the team for four or five days now and had no reaction.
“Each session he’s involved in he gets more confident and I think he’s on a really good path.
“Of course we want everybody available. It causes difficult decisions but (yesterday) we had 26 players training on the training pitch and that’s a very good position to be in.”
When England played Scotland in their only previous match at a European Championship finals, in 1996, moving Southgate deeper from midfield to match the visitors’ back three was the pivotal point of the Three Lions’s 2-0 win. The latest version of the Scotland team also favours a back three and if England were to try and match it, Maguire could play alongside Mings.
Manchester United captain Maguire is not the only leader Southgate has gambled on despite not being fit enough to start the tournament.
Countries are allowed three extra players in their squads this summer as a protection against Covid-19 absences but it has also allowed Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson to take part despite only 45 minutes of friendly football since injuring his groin against Everton in February.
“With a 26-man squad we were able to take a little bit more of a risk with Hendo and what he brings to the group on the training pitch, around the camp, his experience, the way he can speak to some of the other players in those quiet moments around the hotel, similar to Harry (Kane, England’s captain) the way he trains, the way he approaches his work, is a great advantage for us to have in the team,” argued Southgate.
“He’s training consistently now and getting closer to the level we need him to be at. I think we’ve got some decent cover in that area of the pitch but the drop-off from not taking Hendo was such that we preferred to give him the opportunity to make it.
“We’ve had Jude (Bellingham) come through which has been a real bonus, as well as Kalvin (Phillips of Leeds United).
“You’ve got to have the physical part right, even if it’s for 15, 20 minutes of the game. You’ve got to be able to press well, you’ve got to be able to get around the pitch well, but there are other factors when you’re building a squad and a team and all of those parts are key to producing a winning environment.”
Although his injury had not kept him out for anywhere near as long, it was perhaps a similar situation for former Hull City and Sheffield United defender Maguire.
“Having 26 made those decisions easier because the consequence of those decisions of taking players who weren’t match-ready for the first couple of matches perhaps were less impactful than if you only had 23,” explained Southgate. “The decisions might have been different but we’ll never know what decisions might have been taken if we’d only had 23 because that wasn’t the scenario we were working with.
“As it is, both players are training with the team, both are available and we’re looking forward to them being part of the games.”
Southgate’s opposite number Steve Clarke was happy to reveal some good news too – that Kieran Tierney will feature for Scotland.
Leeds’s Liam Cooper is one of those whose place will be threatened by the return of the Arsenal defender, who did not feature in Scotland’s opening 2-0 defeat to the Czech Republic.
Although generally used left of centre by Leeds, the role Tierney fills for Scotland to accommodate himself and captain Andy Robertson, Hull-born Cooper was in the centre of the back three on Monday, and will therefore be hoping to play alongside Tierney for arguably Scotland’s biggest game since their Euro 2000 qualfiying play-off at Wembley.