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Farid El Alagui is hoping Dundee United will be quids in for a Scottish Cup run thanks to his lucky coin

FARID El Alagui doesn't entrust just anyone to be the custodian of his lucky coin.

Superstitious Dundee United striker Faird El Alagui
Superstitious Dundee United striker Faird El Alagui

You may recall that the 28-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan descent puts his goalscoring prowess at least indirectly down to a pound coin discovered on the pitch during his home Falkirk debut, and has consequently developed a habit of kissing the same item on the touchline as part of his celebrations after every strike of his prolific career.

As crazy as this procedure may seem, it all means he requires a partner in crime to produce the prop at the perfect moment, and after a painstaking vetting procedure upon his arrival at Dundee United, he has chosen someone as superstitious as himself: first-team coach Darren Jackson.

The priceless pound was glimpsed for the first time last Saturday, when El Alagui opened his United account against Partick Thistle, and may yet make a re-appearance at Tannadice during United's Scottish Cup fifth round tie against St Mirren this lunchtime.

"It took me two weeks to decide who to give it to," said El Alagui. "I needed someone who believed a little bit. I asked him if he was superstitious and he admitted he used to have some habits before games. So I thought: 'he's the one'. Lee Bullen had it first, then Stevie Crawford, then our kitman Bob Oteng down at Brentford, and now Jacko. I only gave it to him on Saturday - not against Inverness or Ross County - and it worked well

"I found it against Partick Thistle in my first home league game for Falkirk. It was on the park and I found it during the warm-up. I gave it to Bully and he said 'that's it, we're bound to get lucky today' and I said if I scored I'd be there to kiss it."

For the bearer, however, such an exalted bauble brings an onerous responsibility. Oteng memorably incurred the wrath of his team-mates when he forgot to bring the lucky charm to one Brentford match - even though El Alagui scored twice in any case. However, by the end of his time at Griffin Park, where he suffered a posterior cruciate ligament injury, it was the least of his worries. Now the player has cut his losses with a loan move to Tannadice, Jackson comes across rather grumpy about the additional responsibility of not mistakenly spending it or getting it mixed up with the loose change in his pocket, but he is prepared to put aside such reservations in the hope United will ultimately be quids in as a result of the arrangement.

"I've got the coin," said Jackson. "It was my first game on Saturday. He gave me it for the first time and he got his first goal. I am not usually into running about with coins, but if it is going to get us goals then I am prepared to make an exception. I just hope people didn't think he is running over to kiss me!

"I didn't have any lucky coins, but I was superstitious. I was always last out of the dressing room, although in some cases I was only last out because I was sub! And I always went out 10 minutes before the game started to do my warm-up. I wouldn't say any superstitions are mad, if you get it in your head. I would say 95% of players would have some sort of superstition."

El Alagui's lucky coin helped him to 27 goals in 43 games for Falkirk - including two in a League Cup win against Rangers en route to a semi-final appearance against Celtic - as well as a Ramsdens Cup win and the First Division player of the year award. But with Falkirk tumbling out of the competition early on to Ayr that season, to date the Scottish Cup has been impervious to its powers.

"That's why I came back, to put my record right!" said El Alagui.

Moreover, with little good fortune coming his way at Brentford, where despite excellent goalscoring starts to the last two campaigns, first team starts proved increasingly difficult to come by, he could yet be persuaded to remain in Scotland beyond the summer.

El Alagui said: "I'm out of contract in June, so anything is possible. If everything is going well here, I'd be delighted to stay, so we'll sit down and take it from there. I could have stayed in England and gone to another club, but I wanted to come where I was happy.

"Scottish football is not as bad as some people say down there. Obviously the money doesn't compare, but the talent is here. Our game last week was entertaining, it was open and I enjoyed it - I don't see much difference in terms of the level."

United, on the outside looking in as Aberdeen and Inverness Caledonian Thistle contest the League Cup, crave a run in the Scottish Cup, and none more so than Jackson. Despite an illustrious career, it was a case of so near yet so far for him in 1991, when he headed a last-minute Dundee United equaliser only to find himself on the wrong end of the epic 4-3 final against Motherwell. "We got beaten, I broke my wrist, and got sent off, so it wasn't a great cup final for me," Jackson said.

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