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    Being Harry Maguire must be exhausting: he's being hunted by violent football fans

    Harry Maguire doesn't seem to have much luck at the moment. Photo: Getty Images/Simon Stackpool

    We don't have many football careers. at this point, as compelling as Harry Maguire, a man who seems to spend every rare moment he spends on the field trying to escape the shadow of one disaster or another, and, it must be said, he does not always succeed.

    It was an England performance that at times looked genuinely promising against one of the best teams in Europe's second division, peppered with the historic animosity of a uniquely British rivalry. Jude Bellingham once again played as if he could have become one of the greatest midfielders England has ever produced. Marcus Rashford and Phil Foden took their chances. But Maguire? A rich story of such a changing state that it is difficult to take your eyes off him.

    He was just a substitute in the second half – and what a second half it turned out to be. From the moment he arrived on the pitch at Hampden he was egged on relentlessly by the Scottish crowd; scored an own goal; and was promoted to captain following the departure of Harry Kane. Throughout all the drama, England fans have staunchly defended him. In fact, not only did they sing the song they always sing about him, but they also composed a couple more just for the occasion.

    When Maguire finally left the field, joining his teammates in a show of gratitude in front of the visiting fans, those in the stands still did not let him go. They sang his song—the one that ends with “his head is fucking huge”—until he turned to greet them one last time. Maguire gave one last glance of gratitude and a grateful fist pump.

    All this happened in about 50 minutes. It must have been emotionally draining, but it is entirely in keeping with Maguire's story.

    Harry Maguire thanks England fans for their support in yet another one difficult evening for the defender. Photo: Reuters/Carl Recine

    He started against Ukraine on Saturday, as he regularly does for Gareth Southgate – unwilling to sever his connection with one of the stalwarts of his seven-year leadership. Lewis Dunk took Maguire's place in the Glasgow line-up but then, with England two goals down and the team still inside at half-time, Maguire came on for Marc Guey ahead of Levi Colville and Fikayo Tomori.

    Maguire's great story simply refuses to end. Signed up for Manchester United, reluctant to leave for West Ham or anywhere else, and an England international who is now England's number one player when it comes to first team football, he has become something to be feared all football players. He is now the culmination of events. The focus is on provoking the crowd – he is being hunted for sport. Football has always condoned such cruelty, and it can take on an irresistible momentum.

    Maguire's every touch was preceded by a trembling note, hinting at the possibility of error. Each successful pass was accompanied by laughter and comic celebration. At that moment Maguire was not under pressure from the Scottish team, who had something to worry about without putting pressure on the England centre-backs. But Maguire's moment of disaster has nevertheless arrived.

    It is sometimes difficult to explain why he does what he does. This time it was perhaps no more difficult than the fact that he had played very little football this season. His start against Ukraine was only his second set of competitive minutes after the 23 he received in the dismal defeat to Arsenal the weekend before last.

    He was fine with the ball. When he struck Andy Robertson's cross from the right in the 67th minute, it felt different: the problem was once again squarely on Maguire's shoulder.

    England fans are the latest group ready to side with Maguire< p>At this point, it must be said that England fans are the last electorate (with the exception of Southgate) willing to side with Maguire. He lost the United fans a long time ago. Even the Hampden stadium announcer could barely hide his pleasure when he named Maguire Scotland's top scorer. It appears that Hampden regarded his role in Maguire's mistake as a small reward for a poor night.

    Still time for another twist. Kane's goal for England nine minutes from time ended the final challenge from fans who had doubted their team's prospects from the start. Maguire also played a minor role in Kane's goal – it was his forward pass to Bellingham that lifted England up the pitch. That's why Southgate likes him as a competent passer, even though he has always been John Stones' junior partner.

    When Kane was recalled from the field, he gave his armband to Maguire, who on the occasion of his 59th match for England, he again became a senior player on the field for his country. “Harry Maguire,” the away fans sang to their now hushed counterparts in the home stands, “he scored because you're crap.”

    Will we see Maguire in an England shirt again? He has four international games to play before Christmas, although a lot will have to change for him at United before the next match against Australia at Wembley on October 13 for him to become a realistic contender for the squad. He has been responsible for much of his decline – his last two hard-to-ignore goals came for Sevilla and Scotland.

    However, there is an unusual reliability about it that makes you think. For better or worse, he keeps asking for the ball. There are others in his situation who did not.

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