Harry Maguire’s former teacher says he has inspired youngsters to believe you can “follow your dreams if you work hard”.
Former deputy head Susan Cain says the England ace is a role model for children across the country on the eve of their clash against Denmark.
She recalled: “He was determined, hard-working, always a team player –he was such a good lad at school, he was never cocky about his skills.
“It was important for him to do well, he has always given everything, whether for the school, or Sheffield United, or Man United or England, he leaves it all out there.”
Mrs Cain, who has just retired from St Mary’s Catholic School, in Chesterfield, Derbys, watched a young Harry excel at athletics, football and maths before rising to become the Manchester United captain and play such a key role in England’s Euro 2020.
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She said: “He is amazing. It is the impact it has on the pupils now.
“As a role model he inspires them and makes them realise you can follow your dreams if you work hard, and do your best for the team.
“Harry embodies that – and so do the rest of this England side. This team embodies values you can pick out as a teacher, the ones you would want to put in front of the kids. Marcus Rashford shows you do need to focus on the really important things in life.”
She said of overcoming his ankle ligament injury in May: “Harry had it particularly tough this year with his injury, but he has a big influence on the team. He’s been outstanding.
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“I think he keeps [goalkeeper] Jordan Pickford in step. He speaks very well after matches, and captures what it is like to be there.”
Harry’s brothers Laurence, 24, and Joe, 29, will join proud parents Zoe and Alan to cheer him on at the semi-final at Wembley on Wednesday.
Just five years ago at Euro 2016, Harry, 28, was in France as a fan with Laurence, who plays for Chesterfield, and Joe.
He admitted it was “crazy” to be competing against the game’s superstars at the World Cup just two years later
After joining the fans to see him score in the 2018 World Cup quarter final victory over Sweden, his family gathered around the TV to see another towering headed goal from Harry against Ukraine on Saturday.
His goal made it 2-0, and calmed the nerves of millions back home, before the final 4-0 triumph.
Amid the unforgettable scenes at the end of the match, Harry posted an image, writing: “What a feeling”.
Now the powerful centre-half is our secret weapon as a TV audience of around 30million get ready to tune in.
Harry was nicknamed “slabhead” after his former Leicester teammate Jamie Vardy gatecrashed a press conference and asked: “It’s Jamie Vardy from the Vardy Express – how big is the diameter of your head?”
But he likes a laugh, is popular in the dressing room, and speaks with his brothers every day.
Defender Laurence said: “He has been really good with me, every time I play he gives me feedback, he texts me, rings me, says what I can do better, what I have been good at.
“It is a big inspiration for me to try and play at the highest level as you can. We are all so proud.”
Harry is following by example, having had a “super supportive family” who encouraged him academically.
After achieving As and A*s in his GCSEs, he had the ability to go to university and “could have been an accountant”, but joined the youth team set up at Sheffield United.
His former PE teacher at St Mary’s, Martin McKee, says Harry not only shone at football, but was also a good middle distance runner, table tennis player and rugby player.
“The one thing I always remember is how he approached people in the right manner, like not arguing with the referee,” Mr McKee said.
“He could really dominate a game. He had an aura. He could dribble around everyone if he wanted to.
“He is one of the most level-headed players I have come across. Nothing fazes him.”
His skills and hard work led Man Utd to make him the most expensive defender in the world when they signed him for £80million in 2019.
Harry’s cousin George Torr today reassured fans there would be no repeat of the 1-0 defeat to the Danes in the Nations League last October.
He endured what must have been one of the worst nights of his career when he was sent off, just weeks after being convicted of assault in Greece.
Pundits feared he was suffering mentally as well as physically.
An appeal nullified the conviction after his arrest on Mykonos, and there is due to be a full retrial.
England manager Gareth Southgate kept his faith in him. He said: “The beginning of this season was very difficult for Harry on a number of fronts.
“So it’s brilliant to see how he has emerged with so much more confidence as a leader.”
And the no-nonsense Yorkshireman will be doing everything to make his country – and his school – proud.