Only He Could Steal Scotland’s Headlines

COMMENT by Graeme Macleod

Last night’s Argentina friendly marked a key watershed for George Burley’s time in charge of the Scottish national team.

For the first time since taking the reins at Hampden Park 10 months ago, the former Ipswich Town and Southampton manager was able to call upon the services of national captain Barry Ferguson while key full back Alan Hutton also returned to the fold. On top of that, it was the first match of the “post-Kris Boyd era” after the Rangers striker withdrew from international duty after the 0-0 draw with Norway.

But despite it being such a key time for Scotland, there was a notable lack of back page coverage for the national team.

There are very few figures in world football who could hog the headlines from the latest news at Hampden during international week. However one of them just happened to be positioned in the away dugout at the national stadium last night.

Diego Armando Maradona has never done anything quietly. The media whirlwind that met the diminutive genius on his arrival at Glasgow Airport earlier this week show that he is still a blockbuster draw.

Since the shock announcement by the Argentine FA that Maradona would take charge of the national team last month, all eyes immediately turned to his first match in charge at Hampden.

Regarded by many as the best player ever to play the beautiful game, Maradona peaked during his time in Italy.

Following a world record transfer from Barcelona to Napoli in 1984, Maradona hit the headlines for his infamous Hand of God goal against England in the 1986 World Cup. He followed that up with a superb solo effort to secure a 2-1 Argentina victory.

He then led the unfancied Naples side to a league and cup double in 1987 securing his status as an icon in southern Italy. A second league title followed in 1990 after UEFA Cup success a year earlier.

But his time in Italy ended in shame after Maradona tested positive for cocaine and was banned for 15 months. He never played for Napoli again.

Maradona seemed to make a successful return to the international scene for the 1994 World Cup, scoring against Greece. But he was sent home in shame after failing another drug test, ending his international career.

Upon retiring, Maradona spent two unsuccessful stints in management before returning to former club Boca Juniors as vice president for sport in 2005. He went on to host his own chat show but also suffered a heart attack in 2004 as a result of cocaine abuse.

So it was no surprise that Maradona’s media circus followed him to Glasgow this week. His every move was captured by the cameras and every word that left his lips was picked up on by the listening public.

It was something of a low-key game at Hampden by Maradona’s standards, as a Maxi Rodriquez strike secured a comfortable victory for the visitors. And for the record, both Ferguson and Hutton came through their international returns unscathed while Burley’s men again struggled in front of goal.