It is 25 years ago today that Diego Maradona scored one goal with his hand and another courtesy of his genius to eliminate England from the Mexico World Cup finals of 1986, and there are few better from that England team to recall the day than Steve Hodge.
Hodge, now 48, was the man whose backpass Maradona punched past Peter Shilton for the "Hand of God" goal on 50 minutes. He is also the owner of the Argentinian captain's No 10 shirt from that day which is valued in memorabilia terms on a par with Bobby Moore's lost 1966 World Cup final shirt and Pele's 1970 Brazil jersey.
Despite a very decent playing career, Hodge, now the under-16s coach at Nottingham Forest, the club where he spent the majority of his career, is forever linked with that game, that first Maradona goal and that shirt – to the extent that he has embraced it, entitling his autobiography "The Man With Maradona's Shirt". A revised paperback edition is due out next month.
Speaking to The Independent yesterday, Hodge said that he is most commonly asked by fans whether his pass back to Shilton – in the days before the backpass was banned – was intended. "I tell them that it was, I hit it with my strong left foot on the right side of the ball with the intention that it would spin back. It was a slice but it was an intended slice. I just thought that the goalkeeper would pick it up and we would squeeze up.
"For his second goal you can see me on the footage just two or three yards behind him after he is challenged on the halfway line at the start of his run. I thought I would tuck in and get back and that someone would hold him up and we could regroup. But you could see he was getting at the back four too easily and then it was down to the goalkeeper. The dummy he sold Shilton was brilliant."
Despite the first goal, Hodge says he bears Maradona no malice – "there is no hatred, if anything I blame the Bulgarian linesman for not spotting it". He had played against him a year earlier in a friendly for Forest against Barcelona when Maradona was sensational on what Hodge remembers as a "terrible" Nou Camp pitch. Later in the tunnel Brian Clough made good on a threat to grab Maradona "by the balls".
The shirt swap happened because Hodge was delayed leaving the pitch by an ITV interview. "I was walking down the tunnel and Maradona was coming in the opposite direction. I just tugged my shirt and we swapped there and then. I have no idea if he has still got mine. I did an interview this year with a Brazilian TV crew and they have promised to find out."
The shirt is currently on display in Nottingham castle alongside Torvill and Dean's Bolero costumes from their 1984 Winter Olympics gold-medal performance. It will be relocated to the new national football museum in Manchester's Urbis this year. "I didn't get it for its monetary value, I did it because he was a great player and I was pleased to have it," Hodge said. "I have had a few sniffs over the years to sell it but I have never wanted to let it go."
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