It has been a difficult few seasons for Manchester United centre half Harry Maguire, and despite his troubles at club level, England manager Gareth Southgate has kept faith with the 59 capped 30 year old and he was again on the pitch for the 3-1 victory over Scotland during the last international break.
Maguire was however, again at the centre of abuse from some fans, even forcing his mother to denounce the attacks as ‘disgraceful’ and ‘unacceptable’. He has now received some support from an unlikely corner, as Peter Crouch’s father can definitely relate to the abuse being faced, as Crouchie was often the subject of ridicule, purely owing to his 6ft 7in frame.
Defying the boo boys, he had a very good career at the top of the game and was capped 42 times (returning 22 goals) by his country, and as time went on, he ultimately almost won everybody over – particularly with his humorous approach to life and the self depreciating way he speaks about his own life.
With Maguire fresh in the news, Peter’s father Bruce, told World At One, there were points where the bullying and abuse felt like it was on a global scale.
“It had an effect. I think this was the only time I was worried about him. He was very stoic. He took it on the chin, didn’t let anyone know what he felt. But at that point I was worried because he had hidden away inside his flat and wasn’t coming out. We are much more aware of mental health issues these day and I think he was having a real problem. I moved up there for a week and I had to convince him the world wasn’t laughing at him and that was really difficult.”
Naturally, the player bears the brunt of the abuse, but they are not the only victim, as Bruce went on to explain that even watching Peter play became problematic as he was then seeing the vitriol first hand.
“It did happen, where I was sitting in close proximity to people who were delivering the abuse. That is really difficult. I succumbed a couple of times and let the person next to me know what I thought of them, but most of the time you have to bite your lip.”
One of the toughest moments he revealed should have been one of their most proud as a family, watching Crouch in England action when he came on as a substitute for his third cap, on home soil (Old Trafford).
“We were thrilled that he was involved, it was a big moment for him but when you have an entire stadium chanting ‘freak’ at you and ‘does the circus know you are here?’ and things of that nature, it becomes very upsetting. I was upset for his mum more than anything because a moment that was supposed to be wonderful was horribly tainted.”
Moving onto Maguire, Bruce felt he would bounce back just like Peter did and ultimately be stronger for the experience, even though this level of abuse should never be tolerated.
“Harry Maguire has handled this very well. The only thing you can do is keep playing through it and make sure you keep getting the right advice. For your mental health off the pitch, it is very, very difficult. I don’t think people appreciate how difficult it is. I feel very sorry for him but I know he has ability, he has the faith of the England manager, and clubs want to sign him. He just has to believe in himself and he will come through this.”
Football is emotive, and there is valid criticism that often needs airing, but there are also lines that should not be crossed, and more and more often it seems those lined are again being blurred.