Harry Maguire is getting used to life as a cult hero of English football but insists a long line of autograph hunters at Gainsborough Trinity represents the height of his post World Cup fame.
The Leicester player turned in several eye-catching performances as the Three Lions reached the last four in Russia, coming of age on the international stage and scoring the winner in the quarter-final against Sweden.
The defender’s buccaneering style, not to mention to team-mate Jamie Vardy’s insistence on using his “slabhead” nickname, made him a big favourite among supporters but there are no celebrity affectations about the 25-year-old.
Just a week after a gut-wrenching semi-final loss to Croatia he was on the sidelines to support brothers Laurence and Joe go head-to-head in a pre-season friendly between Gainsborough and Chesterfield.
“It was pretty mad. At half-time, I had a pretty long queue and I tried to get through as many autographs as I could,” he said after linking back up with the squad for Saturday’s Nations League opener against Spain.
“There must have been a good few hundred queuing up. I think they restricted them to one photo or a signature each to try and get through. That was probably the busiest place I have been but it is nice. I try to keep my feet on the ground, still living the same life.
“I still support my brothers, which I have done my whole life. The only difference is that I am getting recognised in more places and asked for more pictures.”
Maguire’s star status would have rocketed several notches had a much discussed move to Manchester United, and a £75million price tag, materialised.
Jose Mourinho’s ongoing issues at centre-half could easily leave the player questioning what might have been at Old Trafford but he is more than happy to repay the faith Leicester showed in him little more than a year ago.
“If we were successful at the World Cup, as we were, there were always going to be players who came under interest that is part and parcel of the game,” he said.
“I spoke with Leicester after a bit of interest from clubs, they reiterated that I wasn’t for sale and I respected that decision.
“They gave me an opportunity to play in the Premier League when I had just been relegated with Hull. They have gave me the platform to play at the World Cup so I feel I owe them and I respect that decision.”
Fate pitted him against United on the opening day of the season, with the Red Devils faithful awarding Maguire a conspicuous ovation.
“It was quite strange but I’ve had a few claps from opposition fans,” he said.
“I think that was due to the achievement that we, as a team, produced at the World Cup. I think we brought the country together.”