Wednesday 19 November ~
Don't tell Terry Butcher, but he may have more in common with Diego Maradona than he'd like to admit. It wasn't one of the most inspired PR moves this week when, in the build-up to the Scotland v Argentina friendly, the former England captain took it upon himself to air his grievances over that infamous World Cup quarter-final. “I'll never forgive him,” declared Butcher, but in fact, since that fateful day some 22 years ago, the two players’ paths have been relatively similar. Well, somewhat similar.
Butcher's bitter outburst earlier this week was probably most surprising for that the fact that he's apparently George Burley's No 2 in Scotland, an appointment that unsurprisingly passed a lot of us by. It’s indicative of a failed managerial career based solely on the “credentials” of being an international footballer, a path on which Maradona himself is once again about to embark. Butcher’s managerial career started in 1990 where he guided Coventry to a safe 16th place. But he soon found himself relieved of his duties, a scenario that would become familiar in the years to come. Although he enjoyed a relatively successful five years with Motherwell, stints at Sunderland, Sydney FC and Brentford all ended in misery, the latter lasting barely half a season. Maradona himself briefly tried his hand at management in the mid-1990s with little success and now, despite the drugs, despite the health problems, despite the total lack of experience, he finds himself in charge of one of the best squads in the world and once again opposite Butcher.
Still, despite being the English assistant in a country that would adopt the man with the Hand of God in a heartbeat, Butcher seems to have no qualms in trying to exorcise his demons through the medium of a decidedly average Scotland side. “We actually like Maradona,” James McFadden was said to have piped up, and while not everyone may share that sentiment, living in the past certainly isn’t the answer.
While Butcher’s inability to let bygones be bygones has caused a minor stir in the media (perhaps more for Maradona’s charismatic response than anything), the fixture doesn’t seem to be making waves in Scotland. Despite being billed as a marquee fixture, interest appears to be quite underwhelming with so far only half the tickets for the game sold, around 28,000. The SFA are optimistically hoping to see 35,000 by kick-off tonight, but it’s a realistic prospect that the hosts will fail to break even on such a glamorous fixture. Dan Bryant