HARRY MAGUIRE is an authentic man of the people, a cracking bloke, a folk hero for England’s drinking classes.
They sing his name to the tune of La Bamba: “He drinks the vodka, he drinks the Jager, his head’s f***ing massive!”
Although, apparently, Maguire doesn’t have a taste for the shorts and shots.
According to a piece about the bar bill amassed before his arrest on the Greek island of Mykonos, while his pals quaff Dom Perignon, Maguire sticks mainly to beer.
Like a proper salt-of-the-earth bloke.
During the summer of 2018, when old ‘Slab Head’s’ massive bonce propelled England towards their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years, Maguire was rivalling his manager Gareth Southgate for the title of ‘greatest living Englishman’.
England were far better at that tournament than they had been since Euro 2004 or even Euro 96.
They didn’t beat any genuine world-class opposition, though, and yet the wide-held feeling that their campaign had been an absolute triumph was partly down to the likeability of Southgate’s players and their connection with the public.
The manager enjoyed telling his players, and the wider world, that they were a bunch of genuine lads, many of whom had played in the lower leagues, and had not lost touch with their roots.
Many current England players enjoy ‘connecting’ with fans and come across well on social media.
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For instance, it was Kyle Walker who originally took the mick out of a photo of Maguire’s girlfriend looking adoringly at the defender after England’s win over Tunisia, which then went viral.
All good ‘bantz’, if you like that kind of thing.
Now the tail-end of Southgate’s England playing career coincided with the rise of the ‘Golden Generation’ and the media circus which surrounded them and, in particular, David Beckham.
Southgate hated all of that and was acutely aware that those England players were often regarded as sneering, roped-off poseurs — even though he did not believe that was true of many of them.
And he has been keen for his own squad to be viewed more favourably.
Hence, Maguire enjoying his status as a ‘man of the people’. Even after he became the world’s most expensive defender at £85million and captain of Manchester United.
But there is a problem with being a ‘man of the people’ — a significant minority of ‘the people’ can be absolute toerags, especially after drinking heavily in the sun.
This appears to be one issue which led to Maguire’s arrest. Friendly ‘banter’ turns to taunts which turn to bother.
Then there’s the fact that a significant part of English working-class culture is the idea that you work hard, then reward yourself with a blow-out.
Maguire, 27, is part of that culture and, while many in the media sneer at it, some of us are part of that culture too and would be hypocritical to completely condemn it.
If you ever went drinking with top-flight English footballers before Arsene Wenger transformed the culture, you would know that it took a significant amount of alcohol to get most of them drunk.
But current Premier League players tend to drink remarkably little, if anything, during the season, and therefore do not have the same levels of tolerance when they ‘get on it’ during a brief break.
Having not been out with Maguire, I don’t know if that is true of him personally but reports suggest he had a major thirst on in Mykonos last week.
Maguire strenuously denies all allegations against him — as Southgate names his first England squad of the year today to face Iceland and Denmark next month.
We should resist too much judgment until a judge judges.
But at the very least, Maguire has allowed himself to get into a situation where he has ended up in jail for two nights, leaving Southgate and United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in invidious positions.
Southgate has the especially difficult task of naming a squad without knowing the full facts, or fall-out, surrounding Maguire’s arrest.
Pick Maguire and risk being seen as weak and inconsistent? Drop him and risk suggesting he may be guilty?
This is not the first time one of Southgate’s 2018 heroes has got himself into trouble by being a ‘man of the people’.
Keeper Jordan Pickford was involved in a bar brawl in Sunderland last year, having apparently been taunted and provoked.
We should not want our footballers to live like monks, because frankly life’s too short and what’s the point?
And we would much rather they were down to earth and accessible, rather than remote like Becks & Co.
Yet how realistic is that when too many of the people won’t respect one of their own?
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