Dave Kidd: There’s NO chance Southgate will drop Maguire for World Cup opener… Slabhead’s England spot is concrete


WHEN England face Iran in their World Cup opener in Qatar, just ten weeks from now, the smart money is on Harry Maguire being in the starting line-up.

Such a decision might be met with howls of derision across the land.

Harry Maguire is in line to keep his England spot, despite being dropped at Manchester United


Harry Maguire is in line to keep his England spot, despite being dropped at Manchester UnitedCredit: Getty

It will doubtless be regarded as a sign that Gareth Southgate is pig-headed, out-of-touch and past his sell-by date as England manager.

But Southgate’s loyalty towards Maguire is cast-iron.

The England boss has been licking his wounds for three months since the 4-0 humiliation by Hungary at Molineux capped a miserable winless four-match Nations League run in June.

This Thursday, he will name his squad for clashes with Italy, on Friday week, and Germany, the following Monday, which represent England’s final matches before the weird, disorientating and utterly corrupt mid-season World Cup.

Southgate tells Maguire ‘don’t worry’ about England spot despite Man Utd axe
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And Manchester United’s troubled captain seems certain to be included — despite his axing by club boss Erik ten Hag.

When Maguire has started this season, United’s record reads played three, lost three.

When he has been excluded, Ten Hag’s men have played four, won four.

Yet for Southgate, old Slabhead remains untouchable.­

That defeat by Hungary was England’s biggest home defeat in 94 years and easily the worst night of Southgate’s six-year reign.

And one of the loudest groans came when he introduced Maguire as a late sub, after John Stones had been sent off and Hungary had scored their third goal.

Maguire, once a man-of-the-people cult hero among England fans, is now treated with extraordinary levels of contempt.

He was booed by large sections of the Wembley crowd before the friendly against Ivory Coast in March and even as far away as Melbourne, during a United pre-season friendly in July.

So why is Maguire afforded apparently special treatment by Southgate, who has previously claimed he would only choose those playing regularly for their clubs?

Well, it’s not as if there are a whole host of in-form English central defenders.

Eric Dier, who has been consistently excellent in Spurs’ back three, will receive a long overdue recall.

Especially as Southgate may revert to a back three for Qatar.

And Stones, suspended for next week’s trip to Milan, is being included more frequently in Manchester City’s starting line-up.

But beyond those two, Ben White is playing for Arsenal at right-back — the one position in which Southgate is already famously well-stocked.

And the other two centre-backs in the Euros squad last year were Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady.

Mings has been stripped of the Aston Villa captaincy, while Wolves’ Coady has been loaned to Everton.

Marc Guehi of Crystal Palace and AC Milan’s Italian title-winner Fikayo Tomori are both in the mix but neither were particularly impressive for England in June, when Southgate rightly claimed Maguire had been his best centre-half.

Apart from this scarcity of potential replacements, Southgate has always remained remarkably loyal to those who started regularly during the 2018 World Cup.

Seven of his Russian starting XI lined up against Germany in Munich in June and Jordan Henderson might have been an eighth, if available.

Maguire was also included in Uefa’s Team of the Tournament for last summer’s Euros — despite missing the opening two matches through injury.

Many of us had questioned Southgate’s decision to name an unfit player — a failing of previous overly loyal England managers — but Maguire proved his boss spectacularly right.

It isn’t true that Maguire has never let England down — his early sending-off in a Nations League home defeat by Denmark came just weeks after he was arrested on holiday in Greece, causing him to be axed from Southgate’s squad.

But by and large, Maguire has been excellent for his country.

And however badly England ended last season, Southgate is easily his nation’s most successful manager since Sir Alf Ramsey.

He has fully earned the right to do things his way in Qatar.

And that will mean a prominent role for Maguire, despite the booing mob.

Southgate is a long-term manager with a long memory, in an age of knee-jerk short-termism.

If he fails in Qatar, he will fail on his own terms — with Maguire in his team.


JUST as VAR-devotees will tell you the system is not to blame, only the people who operate it, they will back up their claim by insisting it is only a shambles in England.

So they’ll be hoping you haven’t seen the injury-time chaos in Sunday’s Serie A clash between Juventus and Salernitana.

A 96th-minute ‘winner’ by Juve’s Arkadiusz Milik was incorrectly ruled out for offside by VAR, when a defender lurking by the corner flag, clearly playing everyone on, was somehow not spotted by the remote official.

In the ensuing furore, Juve boss Max Allegri and three players were sent off.

So, yeah, the system is fine, it’s just our incompetent muppets to blame — there’s nothing to see elsewhere.


IT’S difficult to recall any change of management of any team, in any sport, having such a dramatically positive effect as Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes as coach and captain of England’s Test cricketers.

After one victory in 17 matches under the old regime, England have won six out of seven this summer — many in thrilling, record-breaking style.

It was ludicrous that moderately bad light stopped play on Sunday, with England 33 runs short of victory against South Africa.

Yet several thousand still turned out on a Monday morning to watch 25 minutes of cricket — testament to the public appreciation of this team and Test cricket itself.

Perhaps the ECB can now stop obsessing about The Hundred and start prioritising the sport’s original, and best, format.


AS Premier League clubs had a larger net summer spend than the other four major European leagues put together, they should be dominating continental club competitions.

Yet English teams have lifted only one of the last seven major trophies and, in last week’s openers, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United all lost.

Spanish clubs won nine trophies out of ten between 2014-18, without enjoying overall financial dominance.

It would be unspeakably dull if Premier League sides lived up to their financial might — but they are falling way, way short.


AFTER being widely panned for calling off all football at the weekend, while other sports carried on, the FA are sticking to their guns.

So, while Gareth Southgate will still name his England squad on Thursday for the Nations League games against Italy and Germany, he will not hold his usual media interviews.

Some of the decisions over what is or isn’t ‘disrespectful’ during the period of national mourning for the Queen have been farcical — such as the closing of a bicycle rack in Norwich.

But the FA’s paranoia is extreme.

NEXT week marks the first anniversary of Jimmy Greaves’ death.

And if you’d like to read about English football’s greatest scorer’s life by those who knew him best, then I’d heartily recommend The Jimmy Greaves We Knew, collated by Mike Donovan.


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