Harry Maguire was 10-years-old when he first met Neil Warnock, who was Sheffield United manager when the schoolboy defender signed for the Blades.
“Harry was bigger than me even then,” says Warnock. “He is United through and through. When he has time off and the Blades are playing at home he will head down Bramall Lane with his mates.
“Harry has never let the talk of interest from Manchester United and all the other big clubs chasing him bother him.
“He talks to people from all walks of life with exactly the same courtesy, whether they are a multi-billionaire or somebody who simply loves football.”
This afternoon Warnock’s Bluebirds and Maguire’s Leicester City go head-to-head at the King Power Stadium. Sheffield-Bern centre-back Maguire, who played in Leicester’s Premier League victories against Chelsea and Manchester City will be at the heart of defence.
Harry has never forgotten his roots and not too long ago popped back to visit the primary school he attended, Immaculate Conception Catholic Primary School in Spinkhill, Sheffield.
The Maguire family lived in Chapel Street, Mosborough. Harry acknowledges that brothers Laurence, a 22-year-old Chesterfield professional, and Joe, aged 27 and playing for Boston United, have both helped shape his career in their own way.
The siblings are incredibly close and play a major role in keeping him grounded.
Harry played at Brunsmeer Athletic before joining Barnsley and then, at the age of 10, Sheffield United. He still holds a fierce allegiance to the Blades.
“I grew up in Sheffield and I was a boyhood Blades,” he says. “My family was split as my dad followed Wednesday and my mum was a United fan.
“There was always a rivalry growing up. but I signed for United when I was 10-years-old. From that moment I was always a United fan.”
He left the Blades at 21-years-old and admits his career would have gone in a different direction had Sheffield United won their League One play-off final against Huddersfield at Wembley Stadium.
Huddersfield went up, winning 8-7 on penalties after a goalless draw, although Harry did earn success at Wembley when Hull City defeated Sheffield Wednesday, the team he supported as a young boy before switching allegiance to the Blades.
“It was so hard to leave Sheffield United because they were all I’d ever known,” says Harry . “I was loved by fans and I’ll never forget their backing.
“I owe the club a lot and still follow them. My love for United is as strong as ever. When I earned a scholarship at 16 that was a big moment.
“I remember we had a run in the FA Youth Cup which took us all the way in 2011. We eventually played Manchester United in the final. “That really helped me handle first team games because the pressure in the Youth Cup was big – there were 30,000 spectators at Bramall Lane for the final and we knew how much it meant to the club.
“I was a second-year scholar, while United had the likes of Paul Pogba, Ravel Morrison and Jesse Lingard.
“We drew the home leg 2-2 and lost at Old Trafford in the second leg. Even though we lost, it was an unforgettable experience and a great occasion for everyone.”
Harry made his professional football debut at the age of 17 for Sheffield United against Cardiff City. His task was to mark Welsh international Craig Bellamy.
HIs career was blossomed since that day, when goals from Bellamy and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas earned the Bluebirds a 2-0 win at Bramall Lane.
The 6ft 2ins defender has progressed from cheering England on in St Etienne with friends as a fan to playing for his country in the World Cup finals.
Harry Maguire is a £17m centre-back who made one appearance for England at under-21 level before being included in manager Gareth Southgate’s senior squad Malta and Slovakia.
It hasn’t been an easy transition from would-be footballer to fully fledged international for the big defender, who had to work on footwork, technique, physicality, nutrition and diet.
Mike Phelan was Hull City manager when Harry moved to the Humberside club and he says: “Harry had to confront his weaknesses, but it was a character-building experience which helped him go on to bigger and better things.”
Now Harry is preparing to take on Warnock’s Bluebirds and he says: “It’s important we don’t let the Manchester City and Chelsea wins go to our heads. We must not take Cardiff for granted.
“It was clear against Crystal Palace they are decent. Neil Warnock is doing an unbelievable job with them. That result at Selhurst Park will breed confidence and we know it’s going to be tough.”