Harry Maguire: developing a defender
England defender, Harry Maguire, discusses some of the factors that helped him on his journey from grassroots to the heart of defence for club and country.
In 2011, Maguire progressed through the ranks to make his debut at Sheffield United. Fast forward ten years, and the centre-back is an England regular and the Manchester United captain.
Here are a few things that helped him get there.
Having a positive environment
Creating the right environment for players is vital. Safe, fun and inclusive sessions will keep them coming back and improving their skills.
Sure, Maguire’s an elite footballer now, but don’t forget that everyone’s story starts at grassroots level. The positive environment he experienced meant that he kept returning and, at a young age, found a sport he loved.
“I joined a team when I was like seven: Brunsmeer Athletic in Sheffield. It was a great time for me, an enjoyable time.
“The main thing for me when I was a young boy was to make sure that I enjoyed the game, the training sessions, the tournaments that I played in, and I played with a big smile on my face. I certainly did that, and Brunsmeer enabled me to do that.
“I think that’s the moment that I fell in love with the game.”
Playing whenever and wherever possible
Practising on different surfaces can give you different returns – something Maguire appreciates. But he also believes that it doesn’t always matter where you play. It doesn’t matter where your Wembley is. Just getting out and taking part will help you to develop.
“I’ve played on a lot of astroturf, especially during the winter months [when] you can’t find a pitch to play on. I think when you fall in love with the sport of football, you try and play wherever you can.
“You go home and play in the park, or you go to school and play in the playground. I think it’s just getting a ball and playing wherever you can.
“Yeah, definitely [playing on different surfaces can help you develop skill]. The harder the pitch is to play on, then when you do play at Wembley, it feels a lot easier than it would playing on a playground with things that test your touch a lot more.
“It improves your skills. But just getting as much practice as you can with a football, whether it’s doing keepy-uppies or passing the ball against a wall, I think that’s what enables you to improve your skills.”
Playing in different positions
We’re always advocates of young players experiencing a variety of positions on the pitch. Avoiding early specialisation can help players develop their all-round skillsets. In Maguire’s case, he has taken the skills and knowledge from his time in midfield and used them to become a modern-day centre-back.
“I played central midfield really from seven-years-old all the way up till I was probably 16. I always see myself as comfortable on the ball. And it probably helped me back then playing in that position to how I am now – in terms of stepping in and being able to see passes through the lines.
“I’d say it’s a big part of why I feel comfortable and composed on the ball. It really helped me growing up.”