I HAVE some treasured memories tucked away like photographs put in a box and only taken out from time to time to preserve them from fading.

Tragically, I had to delve into that box yesterday when the news broke that Diego Maradona had died at the age of 60. I knew he had been seriously unwell and was in hospital having a brain operation, but the shocking news of his death from a cardiac arrest had me in tears.

For I have been a fan of the wee man from Argentina ever since I saw him play for the first time a mere 41 years ago. I have always remembered the result of that match at Hampden Park – Scotland 1, Maradona 3. What’s more I remember it for the greatest display of talent by a single player that I have ever seen in an international match.

Argentina were the World Cup Winners of the previous year having hosted the tournament in which Scotland became the World Chumpions. But the Albiceleste – as they are nicknamed – had not exactly shone on their European tour, so there was hope that Scotland might get a result.

I recall the whole day with crystal clarity. I was with a crowd that in time would become part of the Tartan Army, the creation of which I date to the World Cup in Spain in 1982. But that’s another story ...

In the Horseshoe Bar in central Glasgow the talk was all about how Scotland’s manager Jock Stein, then in the honeymoon period following his appointment the previous year, would outfox the Argentina manager Cesar Luis Menotti. We were also delighted that three of the Argentine greats, Mario Kempes, Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa, were not in the squad – the first two had been in the team that had won the World Cup, and Ardiles and Villa were in their heyday at Spurs, but we were also a bit disappointed at not seeing such talents.

They still had fabulous players like Daniel Passarella, Alberto Tarantini and Leopoldo Luque, but by the end of the day nobody was talking about them.

It was an early summer’s day and the train out to King’s Park station was heaving. Everyone wanted to see the world champions and hopefully Scotland, with Kenny Dalglish in his prime, could spring a surprise.

Instead the surprise was on us, and it came from somebody who, as he emerged from the tunnel, frankly looked like a wee boy who should have been the team mascot and not its soon-to-be talisman.

I remember someone on the fringe of our mob on the terracing laughing “does his mammy know he’s oot” and then we speculated that Paul Hegarty or Alan Hansen would monster him and he’d be substituted by half-time.

Some Scottish papers, it should be said, had nominated Maradona as one to watch. Then just 18, he had actually played for Argentina’s “seleccion” for the first time when he was just 16, capped against Hungary in a friendly which the Albiceleste won 5-1. Menotti had not picked him for the World Cup squad, a decision Maradona regretted all his life.

Stepping up from Argentina’s age grade squad, maybe he had a point to prove, maybe Scotland just played to his strengths, but on that day we saw a fabulous player come of age.

He had it all – brilliant one touch control, the ability to see a pass when others could only count legs, and that greatest of gifts, sheer footballing intelligence. I remember a couple of the Scottish players trying to rattle him early doors, but that’s when we saw Maradona’s sheer strength. He could twist and turn and had that short sprint over 10 yards that demoralises opponents.

Scotland had actually started well and had scored a couple of half-chances before the wee magician got going. I recall him dribbling past five or six Scots right through the midfield, and I was not the only one who applauded the incredible skill he showed.

Argentina scored after 33 minutes and it was all down to Maradona who bamboozled the Scottish defence before laying the ball off to Luque for the goal.

In one brilliant run Maradona beat three defenders and only George Burley intervened to clear the ball off Scotland’s line. He then hit the post and by now we realised we were in the presence of genius.

He was involved in Luque’s second and then he crowned his performance with his first international goal. George Wood had replaced Alan Rough in goal and he bought Maradona’s dummy before the wee man cheekily clipped it into the near corner of the net.

All the way home the talk was of Maradona and was he the next Pele? He most certainly was, and though he’ll be remembered for drug offences and other controversies off the pitch, for the Hand of God goal against England in 1986 and the one that followed it – in my humble opinion the finest individual goal ever scored in the World Cup – my personal memory was an unforgettable day at Hampden.