Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Maradona is out to make his name in Irish League

He’s the Maradona of the Irish League — but with a difference.

You won’t see him weaving through massed ranks of defenders like the Argentine ace did when at his peak he guided his country to World Cup glory almost single-handedly.

Hopefully we won’t see him score with a handball either.

Instead this Maradona is more interested in keeping strikers at bay. So much so that he gets annoyed when his team wins 4-1.

If Linfield fans had been told in the summer that they were signing Maradona they’d have laughed, but it’s true and David Maradona Armstrong — to give him his full title — has impressed hugely in his short time with the Blues.

Given what’s printed on his birth certificate he’s had a lot to live up to.

“It’s strange,” is Armstrong’s admission when it comes to his famous middle name.

And it’s all down to his father Winkie, once a fearsome striker with Distillery and Glentoran.

“Diego Maradona was my dad’s idol. He won the World Cup with Argentina in 1986, I was born in 1987 and my dad decided to name me after him,” he said, as he prepares to face hometown club Lisburn Distillery at Ballyskeagh this afternoon.

“He always told me that Maradona was the best player he’s ever seen. I’ve seen a few matches on DVD and I think he’s the best player I’ve seen too. It’s a bit mad really.

“A few boys at other clubs I’ve been at have picked up on it, but at first they didn’t believe me.Then when I’ve proved it they’ve been a bit shocked. I’ve got a bit of stick about it over the years as well.

“When I was at Raith Rovers last season I got called ‘Diego’ a bit. The boys at Linfield know, but I haven’t got too much stick about it.”

Armstrong was the only new face that Linfield manager David Jeffrey brought to the club in the summer. Other signings Chris Casement and Peter Thompson knew their way around. Casement had been on-loan during the second-half of last season.

Thompson had done the same, although he was hardly a stranger to Windsor Park having scored over 150 goals for the club before his move to Stockport County.

The adjustment after previously spending all of his career in Scotland with Hearts — plus loan spells with Cowdenbeath and Raith — has been swift for Armstrong.

“The expectation level at Linfield is huge and it’s something that you have to get used to very quickly,” he said.

“I’ve never been in a position at a club where we’ve been expected to win every game. It should motivate you to get better though.

“It’s the type of thing that can

make or break a player. I’ve seen a few players sign for Linfield or Glentoran after being across the water and I thought they’d star in the Irish League, but they’ve struggled.

“It’s a hard league; it’s physical, but I knew what to expect. I spoke to my dad before I decided to come home to Linfield and he made sure I knew all about it.

“He was a hard, physical striker when he played and he used to give centre-halfs a tough time.”

David could well have followed in his father’s footsteps. Indeed he

moved to Tynecastle as a striker when he was just 16.

Now, however, he’s a defender and that’s where he is going to stay.

“I was away with the Northern Ireland under-17s when we had a defensive crisis and because of my height Kenny Shiels asked me if I’d play at centre-half,” revealed Armstrong.

“I played well and was really happy with how it went. When I went back to Hearts they’d heard about it and suggested I play there for a couple of games to let them have a look at me. I took to it really well and have been there ever since.

“Things went well for me when I got into the team at Linfield. We’d three clean sheets in my first four games. That’s what I want. If we win 4-1 I’m not happy.”

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