UPDATE 1-Soccer-Celtic ball boy saves day for Maradona

Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:42pm GMT

(updates after practice)

By Rex Gowar

GLASGOW Nov 17 (Reuters) - Celtic ball boy Adam Brown was the surprise hero on Monday night, earning a big hug from Diego Maradona when Argentina's new coach took his first practice session.

A low-key workout by the squad as they prepared for Wednesday's friendly against Scotland at nearby Hampden Park ended with the stocky 48-year-old Maradona pacing Celtic's Parkhead turf looking for something in the grass.

His staff took part in the search for the lost item and a dozen ball boys formed a police-style cordon and walked down the pitch before Brown found it, a crucifix on a chain.

A joyous Maradona, who had been fairly quiet during the warm-up and a nine-a-side practice game which he refereed, bounded up to the ball boys and embraced Brown.

He then gave him his woolly hat in gratitude amid cheers from a few spectators in the stands.

Maradona made his customary sign of the cross as he left the pitch, bringing to an end Argentina's visit to Parkhead. The squad will practice behind closed doors at Hampden on Tuesday evening.

Celtic put a welcome message on their giant screen including a photo of a teenage Maradona when he inspired his country to a 3-1 victory over Scotland at Hampden in 1979.

Maradona, who will give a news conference at the team's hotel on Tuesday (1600 GMT), did not speak to reporters after practice.

LITTLE EXPERIENCE

A man with minimal coaching experience, he spoke on Sunday of starting his new career by imbuing his proteges with a sense of what it means to wear the Argentina shirt.

Looking back at his playing days, particularly when he led his country to World Cup victory in 1986, Maradona said: "Today (the players) can have a guide who will tell them what the shirt is about.

"I hope (the story) finishes the same way (in South Africa in 2010). For now we're taking it step by step," he told Argentine reporters upon arrival in Glasgow.

Unhappy with the attitude in their last match under former coach Alfio Basile, a 1-0 defeat in a World Cup qualifier in Chile, Maradona said: "I haven't got the working time ... I just have to throw the team on the pitch and the change in attitude is what is going to make this team change".

His appointment as successor to Basile, who resigned after the defeat, was met with more apprehension than joy but his diehard fans believe he can inspire Argentina to a third World Cup triumph.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)