The right winger and scrawny kid who grew up to become England's defensive rocks! 'Proud' Rich Lawrence signed and coached John Stones and Harry Maguire as youngsters

Three Lions success brings back memories of times with Barnsley...

Saturday, 10th July 2021, 6:05 pm
Maguire and Stones celebrate beating Denmark. Photo: Getty Images
Maguire and Stones celebrate beating Denmark. Photo: Getty Images

Rich Lawrence will be hit with a sense of pride when England run out on the Wembley turf for Sunday night's Euro 2020 final.

That's because the Tibshelf resident, a former Chesterfield and Worksop coach currently with Boston United, played a part in the early development of defenders John Stones and Harry Maguire.

Lawrence signed and coached both internationals for Barnsley, where he worked in the Tykes' youth set-up, when those Three Lions were two young boys with big dreams.

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Rich Lawrence. Photo: Oliver Atkin

"When I worked at Barnsley Academy I coached Harry for a year and I coached Stonesy for about four years," Lawrence explained.

"I signed Stonesy and played a part in signing Harry.

"When you start working in academies, especially when you're a young coach, you've got to earn your stripes.

"The academy manager, Dave Hancock, put me with the lads coming in on trial with a view to signing on for the under nines.

"We took Harry on for the under nines for a season and he played predominantly on the right wing, but he was the stand-out player in that group without a shadow of a doubt."

Maguire's time with Barnsley was short lived as, after a year with the club, he and elder brother Joe moved to Sheffield United.

However, Lawrence had more time to get to know current Manchester City defender Stones.

"I was doing the intake group and Stonesy was in that group," he explained.

"I didn't have much to do with him in his first year but I started working with his group from under 11 to under 14, four seasons with him along with a few different coaches.

"As a lad at first he was really quiet, didn't say much in the dressing room. He was with a talented group of players and John would play centre half but also centre midfield for me.

"He was always a really quiet lad. But when he got to under 12s and 13s he sort of came out his shell completely and turned into the life and soul of the party - always messing about and having the banter, pretty much the Stonesy you see now."

Lawrence still has some of the match reports he wrote for his young charges, including a game where Stones was given five out of n10 for his performance.

"I said he had too many touches, getting caught in possession and giving the ball away," Lawrence added.

"I think there's an irony to that one. He's benefitted in the long run with how good he is with his feet.

"In another I gave him a seven. I put he used the ball well and had a good range of passing."

England have conceded just once in six games this tournament, a free kick against Denmark.

But Gareth Southgate isn't the first gaffer to build a side on not shipping goals.

Lawrence said: "I remember we played at the Edinburgh International Tournament and won.

"We won the final and the lads were going barmy and I dragged them over and gave them a rollicking for conceding. The parents had thought I'd gone mad.

"The lesson I was giving the lads there was that no matter what the scoreline, you do not concede. You like to think that's something I helped install in him, I don't know.

"I'd like to think he took away something from me and the coaches over the years. I'm ever so proud of him.

"He was a scrawny kid and now he's a man mountain. When he got his move to Everton I dropped him a text to say how proud I was of him. He said he'd buy me a pint - he still owes me it.

"In my own wildest dreams, from the lad I coached at Barnsley, I didn't think Stonesy would go on to be that player. It's 100 per cent credit to John, his work rate, work ethic and dedication."

Maguire and Stones now have the chance to become national heroes and play their part in helping England lift a major trophy for the first time in 55 years as they face Italy.Lawrence will, of course, be cheering them on.

"I'd probably shed a little tear (if England won)," he added.

"I remember thinking as a young coach whether I'd ever see any of these lads make it onto the international stage.

"It's a brilliant thing seeing them doing so well."