To some extent Chris Maguire at Oxford was the equivalent of a torrid passionate holiday romance. Intense and enjoyable, but short-lived and unsustainable. That’s partly because of the man himself, a man who thrives at being on the edge, but not somebody who you’d rely on to pay the mortgage.
There’s a reason why Maguire’s not playing at a higher level; because as good as he can be, at some point it is very likely he’s going to fall off the edge and either damage himself, or worse, others.
He couldn’t be Chris Maguire without being Chris Maguire. If he was a dependable pro, we wouldn’t have signed him because either he wouldn’t have been good enough or he’d have been playing at a higher level. Michael Appleton found a space for him to operate in which allowed him to thrive while at the same time not scupper the team. Whether that could be sustained, particularly under new management, is difficult to tell; at what point would Maguire outgrow his space or simply not fit into it anymore?
Maguire’s talent was undoubted and there were moments during his time at Oxford where he was thrillingly exciting to watch. But, as a rule, I’m not that keen on mavericks, they’re fun at first, but because to be who they are requires them to first feed their own ego and id. I once spent an evening with a fairly prominent Oxford legend, at first it was great, hearing stories and generally having a laugh, but as time went on things became not so much darker, just increasingly tedious. There’s a point at which what makes someone good also makes them unbearable. On the pitch the team will often, eventually, suffer when these people are allowed to dominate. That’s either because they blow themselves apart just at the point you need them most, or they destabilise the team. Look at someone like Nigel Jemson, a regular goalscorer, a pain in the backside for opponents, but one who was also happy to publicly berate his team mates for not passing to him.
Of course, the fans love players like Maguire because they act like fans would if they had the ability to play professionally. In the past, that might have been because they could drink a skinful – John Durnin or David Rush. In the internet age, fan favourites are the football equivalent of online trolls – Danny Hylton or Chris Maguire. Sometimes that has a positive impact on the team, because it would defuse stressful situations, sometimes it explodes in your face.
Take, for example, Maguire’s trolling of Swindon last season, he scored the goals that gave us the win at home, but Swindon were particularly poor and although the showmanship may have added sheen of the victory, did he do something that others couldn’t? I’m not sure, I think we’d have beaten them anyway, someone else would have scored, but they wouldn’t have been as flamboyant about it.
Then take his role in one of the goals against Fleetwood at home where we needed him to be more on the money, he lost the ball unnecessarily at the corner flag trying to play his way out of trouble, which cost us points. In terms of recovering the four points we need to make the play-offs, that could have been one, maybe three that were thrown away.
The point is that although Maguire was a fan favourite, and he was exciting to watch, was his contribution efficient? Maybe not as efficient as we’d like to think; that’s why Maguire is Maguire who signed for Bury and not for someone higher. One of the characteristics of teams promoted last year was their ruthless and unrelenting efficiency. So Maguire’s departure is sad because it strangles more personality out of the squad and club, but it might just squeeze a few more points out of the season.