England’s World Cup 2018 challenge just FAN-tastic for Harry Maguire after going to last Euros as a supporter

Even if he does not start the opening World Cup 2018 game, even if he does not finish it, Harry Maguire will be among the first to go over and salute England’s army of fans, writes Andy Dunn in Repino .

Because the Leicester star knows what it is like to be one of them, knows the sacrifices they make to follow England on foreign fields.

Only two years ago, Maguire was in among them, raising plastic pint-pots in France, chanting vain support for Harry Kane and Co at Euro 2016.

On vacation from the day job at Hull City, the defender took himself off to watch Roy Hodgson’s team in their final group game against Slovakia.

Maguire (third right) and the boys at England’s goalless draw with Slovakia
(Image: Twitter/Harry Maguire)

Now battling for a place in Southgate’s starting line-up, Maguire recalled: “My friends were out there… I had a few days spare in the summer so I thought there’s nothing better than to go out there and get the atmosphere.

“They were a great few days. It was great to see the passion of the fans. It was a great experience and one I’d definitely do again.”

He roomed with pals in cheap digs that summer, a huge contrast to being billeted in England’s luxury hideaway here in Repino.

The defender is set for a much closer view of the Three Lions’ latest tournament adventure
(Image: PA Wire)

All his travelling mates from Euro 2016, along with his family, will be out here in Russia, backing him as he embarks on his first major tournament.

And because he has been among them, he knows the weight of duty players should feel towards supporters who spend hard-earned money backing the national team.

He said: “I’m totally aware of the sacrifices they make. It is a trip that costs a lot of money. It’s good to know I’ve experienced it, I’ve seen the passion the fans show. I know what it means to everyone.

The England squad arrived at their base in the Russian town of Repino on Tuesday
(Image: DAILY MIRROR)

“We’re going to go there, give it everything we can to be a success.”

Maguire admits his pals find it as odd as he does that one of their number from two years ago will now be playing at the World Cup.

He added: “I’m sure they think it’s as surreal as what it was to me when I first found out. It’s a great occasion for myself, but they’ll go there as big fans of the team as well as supporting myself.”

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At 25 and a relatively late developer, Maguire – in a straight battle with John Stones and Gary Cahill for one of the three defensive slots – will hope to have several tournaments left in his England playing career.

But after that, he will return to the ranks on the road and in the stands.

He said: “I still am a fan, and if I wasn’t selected to be in the England squad this time I’d be there, I’d be a fan. I’d be watching it on TV, gearing up for games, still getting nervous for games, even if I was watching on TV.

“I’m passionate about England – I always have been.”

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