ENEMY combatant turned comrade in arms, John Cofie is relieved to be playing alongside Harry Maguire next season.
The England youth international, who yesterday became Sheffield United’s first signing of what promises to be an eventful summer at Bramall Lane, has painful first-hand experience of what it is like to confront the teenage centre-half in action.
So Cofie, who was marked by Maguire during the 2011 FA Youth Cup Final first leg, last night revealed how he enjoyed an altogether more agreeable meeting with his former tormentor soon after completing his much-anticipated transfer from Manchester United.
“Harry didn’t give me an inch during that match,” Cofie told The Star. “He was just so tough and it was a really physical battle so I’m pleased to be actually on his team now.
“I bumped into him pretty much as soon as I arrived here and we had a good laugh about what happened back then.
Maguire, now a fixture in Danny Wilson’s starting 11, was not the only member of United’s academy squad to leave a lasting impression on Cofie.
Indeed, with the likes of Elliott Whitehouse, Callum McFadzean and Terry Kennedy among those expected to follow in the defender’s footsteps, the lure of working with gifted contemporaries proved impossible to resist.
“It’s great that this is a club that likes to work with
young players and develop them,” Cofie continued.
“That was definitely a factor in coming here.
“We (Manchester United) won the cup but it was such a difficult tie and Sheffield United were an excellent side.
“The atmosphere that night was amazing too and I could hardly hear myself think.
“So that’s why, when I heard there was a chance to come here, Ididn’t have to think twice. I know I’m going to learn so much and I’m determined to contribute too.”
“It’s a good thing there are lots of us around the same age,” Cofie added.
“And that should really help me settle in.”
Relatively inexperienced in professional terms, Cofie is nevertheless used to shouldering a burden of expectation.
He was the subject of a tug of war between Sir Alex Ferguson’s side and their arch-rivals, Liver
when he first rose to prominence at Burnley five ago before being asked to spearhead Royal Antwerp’s attack after being dispatched to the Bosuilstadion, again on loan, last term.
Cofie, who also interested Chelsea before leaving Turf Moor, has received career advice from some of English football’s greatest names since progressing through the ranks with the 12 time Premier League champions.
His move was delayed due to a contract more than 30 pages in length being faxed to United late on Monday evening, such is the rigor Ferguson and reserve-team coach Warren Joyce apply when arranging temporary transfers for their rising young stars.
Cofie, whose father is a member of the British Army, said: “Antwerp was my first time away from home and I matured as a person,
“The language barrier wasn’t too bad because the coach spoke good English, but you have to contend with it.
“It was good for me.”