BY ALAN TEMPLE – BY ALAN TEMPLE
FROM Saughton to Spartak.
From facing Mussy to upstaging Messi.
It has been a remarkable journey for Alfred Finnbogason, the Iceland hero who will always have a home in Scotland.
Finnbogason displayed his sparkling promise during a formative two years in the capital, dazzling for Hutchison Vale Boys’ Club while his father, Finnbogi, worked towards a Masters degree at Edinburgh University.
Hutchie coaching legend Tam Smith, who has been involved with the club for 32 years and oversaw Finnbogason’s age group, was beaming with pride as he watched his former charge score his nation’s first ever World Cup goal in yesterday’s 1-1 draw against Argentina.
Smith lauded: “Alfred was always a great kid. He was initially part of our kids’ school – the Piranhas – when he first arrived, along with Paul Hanlon and Gary Glen.
“However they stepped up to play 11-a-side in his second year and he was prolific straight away. I remember there were already articles about Alfred when he was coming through. It was a good side and you could tell he had something special about him.
“He was very intelligent, his movement was superb and he could play on the shoulder and was excellent in the air. His finishing, as you could see yesterday, has always been good. I’ve not seen many players better at first-time shots. He hardly ever stopped the ball – everything was one touch.
“Alfred was very easy on the eye, a real talent. You never know how far someone will go at that age, be he had something about him.”
Smith contends that the national hero status that Augsburg star Finnbogason is now assured could not have happened to a nicer lad.
The towering front-man brought a souvenir for his former club when he returned to these shores for an under-21 fixture against Scotland in 2010, while he never shied away from the unglamorous aspects of life at Hutchie.
He continued: “I remember when he came back over, he got in touch and we met him at Easter Road and he gave us a shirt for the club. He’s a real gentleman and will be a bit of a legend over there now – he deserves it.
“I can always remember when his dad first came to the club, he looked at me and said ‘is this it?’ He looked at our wee hut and patch of grass and couldn’t believe it. Well, I can tell him – it’s even worse now!
“But Alfred never complained and had a great attitude.”
Finnbogason’s slick finish against Argentina displayed the composure and clinical touch that Smith could already see in the precocious schoolboy.
However, while he has emerged as the focal point of a bruising, physical Iceland side, his upbringing could not have been more different.
He smiled: “We used to stop the game if the ball went in the air – I know that’s hard to believe when you watch his Iceland team! But we made rules that the ball had to be on the ground and he was technically superb. He’s got a little bit of everything now.”