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Maradona lights up Scotland friendly

Chick Young | 16:36 UK time, Tuesday, 11 November 2008

So the Scottish FA got lucky. It happens sometimes when you press the gamble button.

They were dealt the Hand of God when Diego Maradona flashed his C.V. in front of the Argentine FA and they were blinded by its brilliance.

Great players don't necessarily morph into great coaches and I suspect the Buenos Aires blazers may have forgotten to check the small print. But so what, who cares when you look at the view from Mount Florida?

Diego MaradonaA friendly, where the interest level flirted with apathy, has turned into ticket fever just because one of the greatest players to grace the game is coming to town.

It will be his first game in charge of the nation for whom he once danced his magic.

Not that he was the greatest that ever breathed. That was Pele and if you don't accept that don't even try to enter me into the debate. I'm not even up for discussion on that one.

Wee Diego though - with Best and Cruyff - must be vying for the runner-up spot. Even Billy Mehmet, for all his cult status in Paisley, has a bit to go to get in that gang.

The Tartan Army would snog Diego in a heartbeat. Not for what he did for Argentina, but for how he undid England in Mexico in 1986.

It is a twisted kind of love affair, but probably the real thing for all that.

And now they are queuing up to pay their respects. Never mind the fans, they could fill Hampden's North Stand with the world's media.

Right now the press office at the SFA will be like Mafeking, except with little relief on the horizon.

South Americans, Italians and the world's paparazzi will be elbowing for room when he jets into Glasgow. It will be the most spectacular of bun fights.

Maradona is a headline machine, the world's press are tattooed to his skin and there is no available surgery for the removal thereof.

In a country where they embrace their heroes, it is Eva Peron nil, Diego Maradona one.

Even Kris Boyd may be pushed into the shadows next Wednesday and George Burley will drink to that.

But for all the focus, for all the cameras lenses which will point to the visitors' dug-out, for all the intent never to let a Diego by, those of us in this neck of the woods should remain focused on the chaps in dark blue.

Scotland have not won a friendly at Hampden since most of the current team were at school, some in shorts.

That is a mortifying statistic. And the truth is that it is unlikely to be put to rights against the wizardry of the South Americans - with or without the magical Lionel Messi.

But we need a sign that progress is being made, that the manager - having engaged Kris Boyd in a stand-off - has a plan to proceed without his involvement.

The irony is that the next World Cup fixture, against Holland in Amsterdam in March, is the only one remaining that we can probably afford to lose - provided, of course, that Scotland consequently set off on a points-gathering spree at home and in Norway.

I was there when Maradona scored his first goal for his country as a precocious teenager at dear old Hampden nearly 30 years ago.

You could have turned your back on the pitch and still known you were in the presence of greatness.

But having nodded in his direction we must not be blinded by his inspirational light.

We must shake the hand that shook the Hand of God, and then wave a friendly goodbye to a track record from hell.


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