Harry Maguire's grassroots story
My earliest football memory is playing with my brother. He is 18 months older than me so he used to toughen me up when we would play in the garden all the time. My dad was a big football man and loved his football so he joined in and always spurred us on to play, whilst my mum was trying to calm me down all the time.
We were digging up the turf in the garden and always kicking balls over the fence so I'm sure the neighbours weren't happy but I have happy memories of those days playing in the garden. We were ultra-competitive at every sport we did but football was the one we enjoyed and played the most.
Bang outside my house in Mosborough, Sheffield, there was a green we played on a little but it was a bit close to the road and the ball ended up going down the road a lot, so we had a park up the road, which was about a five-minute walk away, so we spent a lot of time up there with a few friends in the local area who we used to hang about with. We would come home from school and go and play straight away.
It was a really good, enjoyable childhood and I love the area I grew up in. I still have a house there now. It had a park and a good football pitch as well so it had everything I needed.
I started playing for my local club Brunsmeer at around six or seven years old. I always used to play the year above and it probably helped me even in my career now because I was playing with better players and more experienced players even at a young age. I played in the year above because my brother was there and my dad was the manager of Brunsmeer so he made sure I played!
We had a good team and I still speak to a few of the people from the group and even though it is going back to when I was eight or nine years old, I have great memories there. We used to challenge for all the leagues and cups so it was really enjoyable.
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It was around the age of eight when I was scouted by Barnsley. It was about a 40-minute drive from my house and at that time they had a great academy and really good facilities.
I was at Barnsley for a couple of years and I can remember there was talk of Barnsley going into administration and we didn't know whether the academy was going to become a centre of excellence so I looked to move on and went to Sheffield United at 11 years old.
I continued to play in the year above all the way until the under-15s. I had some great coaches and some great memories at Sheffield United and obviously came through to make my debut there. So it was a great club for me and one that I'm really proud to have represented and one that I'm in full support of now.
I supported them growing up. When you're in the academy, you would be a ballboy at Bramall Lane for all of the home games from around 14 or 15 years old and it’s the first result I look for after I’ve played on a Saturday. I met some amazing people and had some amazing coaches there.
Growing up, you spend so much time at the academy and you go through so many coaches. Obviously, my dad was a massive support and influence on my career and so was my reserve team manager, Mark Smith. He is probably the one who gave me the belief and confidence that I can go and be a professional footballer. When times were tough and you felt like it was far away, he was the one who instilled great belief and confidence that I could go and make a great career out of the game. Mark was an ex-footballer himself and was a centre back too so he had a great influence on my career. But I've had so many good coaches and I'm thankful for them all.
I also played for my school sides regularly. There were occasions where I had to miss games throughout the season because of training and things like that but Sheffield United never stopped us playing for the school. Again, they were good memories looking back. You and your school mates would buzz off being able to play all day. You couldn’t wait for the day to get to the end of the day, to get back on the football pitch and try to win a game of football with your mates.
At Immaculate Conception Catholic Primary School in Spinkhill, I can remember playing in lots of tournaments. They had tournaments called May Day, which they held there with all the young kids, so that was an amazing day and I remember that fondly. And then at my secondary school, St Mary's, it was more of a league. I played as much as I could in the school team because it was something I really enjoyed and I feel at that age, the most important thing is playing with a smile on your face.
When I think back to those grassroots days, it is just pure excitement and enjoyment. I think at that age especially, the main thing is playing with a big smile on your face and enjoying the football and enjoying the game. You always get that little bit more energy and intensity in your game anyway when you're enjoying it and playing with a smile on your face.
I loved my time in grassroots football. It was an amazing time, waking up to play in a morning. They were amazing times and memories that I'll never forget.
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