Laurence Maguire – brother of Harry – reveals how defending became the family business

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Laurence has since carved out a fine career of his own as a reliable centre-back with a fine range of passing, and is Chesterfield’s longest-serving player plus an England C international.

He first joined Chesterfield’s academy at the age of 15 and it has been quite a rollercoaster in that time.

After successive relegations, Chesterfield are operating in the National League for the fourth year in a row but the club is finally stirring.

The appointment of James Rowe as manager in November 2020 has been transformative, with the club top of the table after just one league defeat this season.

Kabongo Tshimanga, a forward who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has scored 18 goals in 20 games, and attendances are on the rise. Almost 6,000 fans are expected at Stamford Bridge.

“Mentally it has been very tough with back-to-back relegations and a change of ownership,” says Laurence.

“Luckily I’ve got a good family around me but there were some really low moments, especially when we were bottom of the Conference.

“I’m from Chesterfield and went to school here, so walking in the town was the heartbreak for me – there was no atmosphere and we were getting 2,000 at games.

“Covid also really affected our finances, playing in front of no crowds, and I definitely think it affected our results on the pitch.

“But I’ve been here a long time and feel like we’re now on the up. You can just feel there is something coming back as a community.”

Maguire has returned to training this week after a calf injury and is hopeful of making the starting XI at Chelsea.

Though he cannot wait for the challenge of facing the European champions, his manager has made one thing abundantly clear.

“The gaffer has reiterated to us so many times that the main focus is winning the league,” he says.

“We’re not going to have an FA Cup winners’ medal around our necks at the end of the season but we’ve got a great chance of a title winners’ medal instead.

“It will still be the biggest game of my career. I’ve played at Bramall Lane in front of 40,000 when they got promoted but Chelsea will be something different.

“United was the dream tie, obviously with Harry being at Old Trafford. To have the chance to come up against your brother doesn’t happen very often.”

Maguire was born in 1997, a significant year in Chesterfield’s long history after they reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup for the first time.

With the club in the old third division, and a squad including the likes of Sean Dyche, Kevin Davies and Billy Mercer, they gave Premier League Middlesbrough a huge scare and were excruciatingly close to reaching the final.

The game at Old Trafford was a crazy 3-3 draw, with the drama lengthened by extra-time and containing a moment of genuine controversy when Jon Howard’s shot went over the goalline but was unseen by the officials.

Chesterfield lost the replay 3-0 and for supporters of a certain vintage, the frustration remains.

“It was a massive thing for the town and we would have played Chelsea in the final if we had won,” says Maguire.

“People still talk about the controversy in the game and a lot of fans are thinking this is the game they deserved.

“The fans deserve a big draw like this, they’ve stuck with us in their numbers when it was tough and we were bottom of the league.”

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