The two goals are almost identical but they come seven years apart.
For the first, just over 8,000 are at Boundary Park, Oldham, for a League One game on the opening day of the season, which is a passable summer’s day for a ground situated on the edge of the Lancashire Moors and 509 feet above sea level.
Stephen Quinn is sizing up a corner for Sheffield United, freshly relegated from the Championship. The ball is well delivered and a familiar forehead connects.
One day in the future a celebrated Sheffield Wednesday fan will try to shame that forehead and dub its owner ‘Slabhead’. But that story is yet to be written. Right now we are witnessing the first ever public use of that forehead to good effect.
Leicester defender Harry Maguire was one of England’s cult heroes at the 2018 World Cup
Maguire’s World Cup strike against Sweden in the quarter-finals cemented his hero status
‘It was a massive goal for me at the time,’ says Harry Maguire. ‘It was the first game of my first real season at Sheffield United and I was only an 18-year-old boy, so there were a lot of nerves.
‘I scored to make it 1-0 and we won 2-0. It settled me right in for the season. It’s something that helped me grow as a player, helped me for the long run because it gave me great confidence that I could play men’s football.’
He scored in front of the end housing the United fans. A year or two before he might have been sat there among them. One thing irks him, however. ‘It was a bit of a dodgy celebration. I weren’t used to it, to be honest.’
He’s not wrong. It was something like a squat, with arms outstretched. He could perhaps be forgiven: his first goal for the club he grew up watching and supporting. It was only his sixth appearance for them.
He started his career at boyhood club Sheffield United, playing in the third tier
Seven years on in Samara, Russia, on the fringes of Asia and on a genuine scorching summer’s day, something similar happens. In front of a global audience of hundreds of millions, that forehead was put to remarkably similar use.
This time Ashley Young sized up the corner. Two and half thousand miles from Boundary Park, Maguire again rose above his defender and headed home against Sweden — England were heading to a World Cup semi-final. ‘It was a good header against Oldham, to be fair,’ he says. ‘But maybe not as good as the one at the quarter-final!’
He has travelled a long way in seven and a half years.
The graph should show a steady rise through the leagues and on to international level. But it doesn’t work out that way.
The trajectory has been a little wobbly. The move to a Premier League club works out smoothly enough, though at £2.5million it’s not exactly in John Stones territory. And Hull had only just stayed up the previous year, so they weren’t the most secure prospect. Still, he was 21 years old and life must have seemed good.
But it turned out he would be that defender chosen only for unnecessary cup competitions. He would make his Premier League debut, but only from the bench, coming on three times that season. He was making up the numbers.
‘It was a difficult time for me as I felt I should be playing,’ he says. ‘Obviously making the move, everyone questions you, whether or not you’ll make the step up.
‘I made my Premier League debut but I wasn’t really in the squad many times. When you’re not playing you always question yourself.
He moved on to Hull City but it took a while before he established himself as first choice
After a loan spell at Wigan, he was finally trusted in the Premier League by Mike Phelan
‘I always had great belief. I always felt like I should be playing. I was knocking on the manager’s door (Steve Bruce) every other week asking: “What’s happening? Why aren’t I in the squad?” He was saying: “Just be patient”. I kept saying: “I want to go out on loan!” Eventually he gave in to me.’
Which is how he ends up at Wigan at the bottom of the Championship in 2015. He played 16 times but they were relegated.
‘They were struggling but I just wanted to play,’ he says. ‘And it was a good time. It showed me I could play in the Championship, week in, week out.’
Still, Russia 2018 is just three years away and Maguire is already 22. It still seems a long way off.
‘I can’t be sent out on loan and be thinking I’m going to play for England,’ he says. ‘But you always envision it. You feel you can do it.
‘But it does seem a long way away, especially when you’re in League One with Sheffield United and you’re watching England on TV and going to watch them in games. You can ask any young player in the lower leagues. They always dream of playing for England.’
We have to talk about the meme. The meme is a global phenomenon. The initial tweet went viral after Samara and that header. In a picture taken after the last-16 win over Colombia, Maguire is seen leaning over a crowd barrier, nonchalantly chatting to a female England fan in the crowd.
Kyle Walker, fellow Sheffield United fan and defensive partner, tweeted the photo with the caption: ‘So a good header doesn’t hurt … Know what I mean love?’ Apart from the 71,000 retweets and the 274,000 likes, it will spawn thousands of memes.
It seemed to assume a significance beyond the silliness of the tweet. That it features Maguire is one element.
He is perhaps the player with whom fans empathise the most, most likely because he is one of them, a wannabe who travelled to France to watch the team at Euro 2016. And all for a dismal 0-0 draw with Slovakia.
Of course, it’s Walker’s humour as well. This England team seem accessible and funny. Maybe it’s Maguire’s pose: you could imagine him in another life, spinning this yarn at a Chesterfield nightclub, attempting to impress a local girl.
‘The funny thing that came out was people thought I was speaking to a random girl, when it was my fiancee,’ says Maguire.
This image of the 25-year-old with his fiancee, Fern Hawkins, went viral during the World Cup
Manchester City defender Kyle Walker used the meme recently to troll Liverpool
It was of course, Fern Hawkins, who has more reason than most to object to it constantly reappearing. ‘She’s not happy it keeps getting passed around because she’d been soaked in beer [in the photo]. But it’s great, it’s fun, I keep seeing it flying around Twitter.’
Most notably two weeks ago, when Walker gave it another outing to troll Liverpool when Maguire scored an equaliser against them, opening up the title race.
Maguire smiles. ‘I saw he deleted it!’ Apparently there are limits on how ready we are for footballers to have actual personalities.’
But it was almost as if a humorous tweet had encapsulated the renaissance of the national team.
‘I think it showed what we were all about,’ says Maguire. ‘The interaction we had with you guys — the media — and the fans back home. The group, the tightness. We felt we were all in it together and I think that was a massive reason why we were successful.’
How did he navigate the journey from a Championship relegation season at Wigan to a World Cup semi-final in three years? As with most sporting success stories, there are multiple heroes.
First and foremost, there is family: dad Alan, mum, Zoe, brothers Laurence (at Chesterfield), Joe (at Gainsborough Trinity), sister Daisy (studying for A Levels) and his fiancee.
‘The sacrifices that my family made throughout my life,’ he says. ‘Getting up on a Sunday morning at six o’clock taking me to Newcastle away. Things like that. It’s really tough for them. But they did it all the way through my life.’
Family nurtured him through academic exams as well. He got three A*, four As and a B at GCSE. ‘They took me to training every night, fed me good things, kept me well. It’s nice to repay them and give them something back.
Maguire counts John Terry as a role model, along with Michael Dawson and Chris Morgan
‘Mum tries to keep our mind on other things as well as football. But my dad’s always football. If he’s not watching me, he’s watching one of my brothers.’
Sheffield United were vital. He still goes back to support, even slipping into the away end for last season’s Sheffield derby.
‘They’re a club that set me on my career. It’s a club I really follow and feel close to and I have fingers crossed they make it up and I’m playing them in the Premier League next year.’
Leicester, of course, play their part, which brings us to Jamie Vardy, famously a Wednesday fan. That must be why he was so keen to ensure the media knew about the Slabhead nickname. ‘Yeah, but I’ve got the bragging rights at the moment!’ he says, referring to Wednesday’s struggles.
Though he perhaps needs to retain a certain wariness. ‘Vards is always up to some sort of prank. If you walk in the changing room just be aware and maybe put a shield on.’
Michael Dawson, who kept him out of the Hull team will get a namecheck. ‘Even when I was down and not playing, he always pulled me and said: “Just be patient. I’ve great belief you’re going to go to the very top”.’ Then Chris Morgan, a centre-half at Sheffield United, would teach him his trade.
John Terry was a role model from afar. ‘He was one of the best on the ball. Left and right foot, he used to spray the ball all over the pitch. When you’re a big lad and good at heading, people think you’re not good on the ball. But it’s not always the case.’
Many coaches have helped but two at Hull stand out. Mike Phelan, now back at Manchester United, played a back three which helped Maguire establish himself. And another, who is not so fashionable right now: Marco Silva.
‘Marco is a wonderful manager. He’s obviously having a difficult time at the moment but I think he’ll come out strong. Thanks to him, he gave me a great run in the team.’
It was Phelan, Silva and Gareth Southgate who put Maguire in the spotlight at the top level. In another era, his languid style of throwing in a shoulder shrug, beating his man and bringing the ball out from the back might not have been tolerated in England.
‘The game has evolved in a way that has helped me. Centre-halves now, to play at the top, are expected to deal with the ball. Goalkeepers too. That’s how extreme the game’s gone.’ Maguire first caught Southgate’s eye in an England training session centred on bringing the ball out from the back.
It was then that the manager earmarked him for the World Cup. This was in August 2017, when Maguire was 24 and yet to make his international debut.
‘I remember it,’ he says. ‘We do that session quite often and it was a big reason we played well at the World Cup. He said we were good enough to play out.
‘I think the confidence they bred into us, the trust that they have shown has helped us perform and play out from the back like we did.’
Maguire looks back fondly on England’s time in Russia, but regrets their semi-final loss
England were beaten 2-1 in extra-time by Croatia, having led through Kieran Trippier
Traditionally this is pitched as a fairy-tale: from Boundary Park to the World Cup semi-final. Only Maguire doesn’t quite see it that way. Of course, he is enormously appreciative of the summer of love, a lifetime memory.
‘Overall I think it was a real success for the country,’ he says. ‘The fans got right behind us and the support was incredible and it’s something we should be proud of.’
And yet, it might have been more. ‘I think about it quite a lot,’ he says. ‘It was a great summer for myself. [But] obviously it ended in disappointment. And that’s something that still gets to me now.
‘Whenever I see pictures (of the semi-final against Croatia), it’s still not a nice feeling. We were so close. At half-time we had one foot in the final.’
He acknowledges his part in that failure. ‘Playing out from the back was a big part of why we were successful at the World Cup. Everyone was cool, calm.
The second half against Croatia, we probably let that go a bit. And we were panicking a bit more than previous games. That’s a big reason why we got knocked out of the tournament.
‘But you can see from the performances already in the UEFA Nations League, that when the big teams come, we’re a lot more experienced. We learn to cope with the pressure and the ball a lot better. Hopefully it puts us in good stead for the future.’
What might the future hold for Harry Maguire? There are those UEFA Nations League semi-finals in Portugal in summer, which might yet be a less-intense repeat of his experiences in Russia.
Before that there is Spurs today. Leicester need to knuckle down. The season hasn’t been bad, it’s just everything is a bit of a comedown from 2016 and despite the progress under Claude Puel, boos often accompany home matches.
‘We’ve been a little inconsistent. When we’re playing against teams we’re expected to beat at home and not performing to a level we should be performing to, you understand fans not being happy.’
It’s no secret Maguire might have moved had Jose Mourinho prevailed at Manchester United. But there were no tantrums.
Maguire is now fully focused on Leicester despite rumours in the summer of a move away
He is determined to repay the faith that has been shown in him by the Foxes
‘Leicester gave me a great platform to go and play at a World Cup. If it weren’t for them I maybe wouldn’t have done. So repaying them is important. There was no doubt in my mind I was going to be loyal and start the season with Leicester.’
And yet he is surrounded by England team-mates who will play in the Champions League this month.
‘Every young player wants to play at the top level. I take everything step by step and concentrate game by game and see where it takes me. Leicester are a club on the up and we’ll see where they go and we’ll see where I go,’ he says.
There is something innately likeable about Maguire. He has won player of the year awards voted for by fans at Sheffield United, Hull and Leicester. Now England fans have taken him to heart.
‘I’d probably say it’s my journey,’ he says. ‘Playing in League One and building my way up the ladder. And your style of football and the way you want to play the game.’
In all honesty, there are plenty like him in football, ordinary, down-to-earth men who have extraordinary fame projected upon them. Somehow we settled on him as a symbol for a new England and a fresh type of relatable footballer. Still, he wears it well.