England World Cup stars Gary Cahill, Harry Maguire and Jordan Pickford have a strong Derbyshire link
Derbyshire football fans will have a keener eye than most on England when they launch their eagerly-awaited World Cup campaign on Monday.
For the national side could have three players — defenders Gary Cahill and Harry Maguire, and keeper Jordan Pickford — with strong local links when they kick-off against Tunisia in Group G in Volgograd.
The game in Russia is expected to feature a resurgent Gary Cahill in defence after the Chelsea star recently forced his way back into manager Gareth Southgate’s side to add to his more than 50 caps since making his international debut in 2010.
The Russian adventure is a far cry from Cahill’s days learning his football skills with AFC Dronfield and growing up in the shadow of St John the Baptist Church.
The former Henry Fanshawe School pupil was a midfielder in those days and his talent attracted many scouts before he signed for Aston Villa in his early teens.
After graduating from the Villa Park academy, the big defender was loaned to Burnley and Sheffield United.
He then went to Bolton Wanderers and later Chelsea in 2012, where his glittering career has led to countless honours — among them the UEFA Champions League in his debut season at Stamford Bridge, followed by the UEFA Europa League, League Cup, Premier League and FA Cup.
But despite his fame, Cahill has still returned on occasions to AFC Dronfield end-of-season awards evenings.
Maguire only made his England debut in the World Cup qualification group, starting the away win in Lithuania.
It has been a quick rise to fame for the 25-year-old, who came through the youth system at Sheffield United and starred in the first-team, before finding fame at first Hull City and now Leicester City, after a £17m move, in the Premier League.
Yet it all started for the player as a pupil at St Mary’s Catholic High School in Chesterfield, where he has returned on several occasions since finding his fortune in football.
His footballing brothers, Joe and Laurence, also attended the school and his sister, Daisy, is a member of the sixth-form.
The school was where Maguire first linked up with the World Cup in 2002 when breakfast-time matches from South Korea and Japan were screened in the school.
Maguire credits the school and PE teacher Martin McKee for helping to develop his love of sport — he also played rugby, golf and hockey as well as taking part in athletics.
Pickford, England’s most expensive ever keeper after his move from Sunderland to Everton last season, says he owes his rise up the footballing ladder to a loan spell in non league at Alfreton in 2013 from the Stadium Of Light.
He kept five clean sheets in 12 matches.