Belfast Telegraph

World Cup 2018

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Rise from Euro 2016 fan to World Cup squad beyond my wildest dreams – Maguire

The Leicester defender watched England’s match with Slovakia at the European Championship two years ago from the stands.

Harry Maguire is preparing to go to the World Cup just two years after travelling to watch England as a fan, so it is little wonder the defender can scarcely believe his “remarkable” rise.

Gareth Southgate’s squad is littered with players that have made unorthodox journeys up the ranks, from former non-league players Jamie Vardy and Nick Pope to the many loan moves captain Harry Kane went on before making it big.

Maguire’s ascent has been striking in a different way.

The 25-year-old went to England’s Euro 2016 group match against Slovakia as a fan after helping Hull seal promotion through the Sky Bet Championship play-offs and is now bound for Russia to take part in the World Cup.

“It was a great occasion for myself to go over there and see them play live and the atmosphere,” Maguire said of the 0-0 draw in St Etienne.

“The fans out there – the incredible atmosphere, the passion that they show.

“Obviously I picked the Slovakia game… I wish I’d picked the game before against Wales, which would have been a bit more interesting.

“But they managed to get the job done. It was a great atmosphere, it was great to experience it.”

Among those with him in France for a trip he will “never forget” were brothers Laurence and Joe, who play for Chesterfield and Gainsborough Trinity respectively,

They are set to join him in Russia and Maguire joked that he has got to get his hands on lot of tickets after an ascent he could never have imagined two years ago.

“No, (I would) definitely not (have believed it),” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Obviously that season we got promoted through the play-offs with Hull.

“Maybe in and out of the team a lot, played a quite few games, I think I played 30-odd times that year, but quite a few off the bench.

“Then obviously kicked on the year after, but, no, it has been a remarkable two years within that.

“It is something if you look back and you think you’d be there, you’d probably think you were dreaming.

“But it’s a dream come true for myself to represent England, so it’s a really proud moment.”

Maguire hopes to put a smile on England fans’ faces this summer and believes the squad boasts the youthful exuberance and talent to “go there and take it on”.

The overall lack of previous major tournament disappointments may also help, with the four-cap centre-back knowing better than most what the man in the stand feels.

“If you’re not selected for England, you still support them as a team, as a fan,” Maguire, who made his international debut in October, said.

“You did get frustrated, you do watch the games. It’s hard to watch it as a fan, but you know – and I am now in the position – it’s tough for the players.

“Every team is a good team, every country has got different attributes and we know it’s tough, but we’ve got a lot of ability in the squad and we do have the confidence to go there and take the tournament on.”

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Harry Maguire has impressed with Leicester (Nigel French/PA)

Unsurprisingly there is no lack of confidence from Maguire after kicking on impressively since joining Leicester from relegated Hull last summer.

Crowned the club’s player of the year by fans and fellow players, the Foxes ever-present also has an admirer in England manager Southgate.

“He has been brilliant,” Maguire added.

“As you seen at the start of the season, I played a few games in the Premier League and he showed great faith in me in putting me in the squad.

“I managed to come in and stay in the squad, so the trust gives me confidence to go out and play, keep doing what I am doing and obviously to be selected to go to Russia shows another great amount of faith, so I hope to repay him.”

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