DCSIMG

Happy Harry makes a case for United defence

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Defender Harry Maguire has admitted he wants to help Sheffield United to Wembley glory - and then pen a new contract at Bramall Lane.

Maguire, still aged just 21, made his 150th senior appearance in United colours earlier this season, and has established a reputation as one of English football’s brightest young prospects.

A commanding centre-half, he was a key member of the Blades side which reached the FA Youth Cup final in 2011 - and his important role in United’s march to the FA Cup semi-finals this season is thought to have attracted admiring glances from elsewhere.

But Maguire, who has a year left on his United contract, admitted: “I am definitely open to staying here.

“I like it here, I have enjoyed my time at United and it’s a great club, a great place to be.

“But all the focus has to be on the field, doing as well as we can and seeing where that takes us.

“We have a huge FA Cup semi-final at Wembley to look forward to, so we’ll focus on that and sit down in the summer.”

Maguire, who credits United manager Nigel Clough with the club’s incredible turnaround which sees them in the top half of the League One table, also paid tribute to centre-half Neill Collins.

Between them, the pair have helped United keep a club record eight clean sheets in the league and Maguire said: “Collo [Collins] has been great for me.

“We’ve played more or less every game together since I first came into the team, and he gives me great advice.

“I can’t thank him enough for that.”

“Confidence is flying through the lads,” Maguire, speaking ahead of this weekend’s clash with Wolves at Bramall Lane, added.

“Before Tuesday night [a 0-0 draw at Preston] we had won 10 straight games, and none of us have ever gone on a run like that in our careers.

“It’s now 11 unbeaten, and we just want to carry it on now - starting on Saturday, against Wolves.

“They’re at the top of the league for a reason, of course, but we’re in good form ourselves and we have a lot of ability in our ranks.

“So there’s no reason why we can’t get a positive result.

“That’s the belief the manager has given us - now, we go into games believing we are going to win them.

“That gives you more composure on the ball, and the atmosphere is a lot better around the whole place.

“There are exciting times ahead.”

Maguire is just one United man whose contract expires next June, with Clough planning to discuss extensions with a number of players at the end of the current campaign.

“It’s difficult in the situation we are in,” Clough admitted, “but we intend to sit down with whoever is necessary and sort things out.

“Over the last few weeks, Harry has been as good as we’ve seen him.

“He’s attracted a lot of attention since he broke through, but he slipped under the radar earlier in the season as clubs don’t tend to look at players whose clubs are in the bottom six of the division.

“But his confidence is high - you can see that with how he brings the ball out of defence and goes forward - and both he and Collo have been immaculate in both attack and defence.

“When teams come to Bramall Lane with a defensive mindset, and put 10 men behind the ball, someone’s got to try and break the deadlock and I encourage the players to try and do that wherever possible.”

Clough, who hopes to have hamstring injury victim Matt Hill available for selection this weekend, added: “Harry’s a quiet lad but I presume he wants to stay - he’s enjoying his football at the minute.

“There’s a lot of optimism around the place, and hopefully everyone can see that we are capable of mounting a serious promotion challenge - if not this season, then next.”

Clough lost two left-backs, Hill and Bob Harris, in Tuesday’s stalemate with promotion-chasing Preston - and has further question marks over the fitness of right-back John Brayford.

“If it was up to John, he would have played at Deepdale,” Clough smiled.

“Thankfully it’s not, but he and Matt may be back for Saturday.

“Matt’s hamstring was just tight, it hasn’t ‘gone’ so we’re hopeful he won’t be out too long.

“We’ve been fortunate with injuries so far, so credit to the medical staff here, but it’s also important to credit the players because they want to get out there and play, even when carrying slight knocks and niggles.”

Kieran Freeman, who made his debut at right back, finished the game on the left side of United’s defence as they secured yet another shut out.

“I didn’t expect to make my first start at left back, but it was nice to get my full debut out of the way,” Freeman said.

“Of course, you don’t expect both your left backs to go down but there’s nothing I can do about that. I’m just happy to be playing football, to be honest.

“Growing up at Nottingham Forest I served my entire apprenticeship at left-back, so it wasn’t an entirely new thing and it was nice to contribute.

“Every day that goes by I feel like I am becoming more and more part of the team, which is nice, and hopefully we can crack on from here.”

Saturday’s game, which kicks off at 1.25pm, will mark United’s 125th anniversary with a number of significant events and activities.

At least 60 former United players will return to Bramall Lane for the game and a commemorative shirt, based on the kit worn in the 1890s, will be on sale.

 

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