Pres­sure? Rookie boss is used to it!

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Chris Dunlavy

BOOED on. Booed off. Booed for the best part of a sea­son and a half. Gary Cald­well may be new to man­age­ment but he is an old hand at deal­ing with paralysing pres­sure.

Signed on a free from Hiber­nian by Gor­don Stra­chan’s Celtic in 2006, the big cen­tre-half was hardly wel­comed to his boy­hood club with open arms.

Widely per­ceived as sub­stan­dard and er­ror-prone – thanks in part to play­ing out of po­si­tion at right-back – Cald­well rarely got through a game with­out the jeers of 60,000 Bhoys ring­ing in his ears.

More tal­ented play­ers have crum­bled un­der such hos­til­ity.Yet Cald­well, a quiet and mea­sured man off the pitch, al­ways pos­sessed a core of steel.

Header by header, tackle by tackle, pass by pass, he won them round. By 2008, he was the first name on Stra­chan’s team-sheet.

By 2009, he was the Scot­tish Pre­mier League (SPL) and Scot­tish Foot­ball Writ­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion (SFWA) player of the year. By the time he left in 2010, Cald­well had won two SPL ti­tles, two cups and cap­tained his coun­try, even scor­ing the win­ner in a Euro 2008 qual­i­fier against France. And though he never con­vinced ev­ery­one at Celtic Park of his abil­ity, his for­ti­tude and per­sis­tence had, at the very least, earned their re­spect.


“It was fan­tas­tic to see Gary get the ap­pre­ci­a­tion he de­served,” said for­mer Celtic and Hearts de­fender Steven Press­ley.

“He was an easy tar­get for too many peo­ple. He played at right­back for a spell and was not in cen­tral de­fence. He ac­com­mo­dated oth­ers and did not com­plain, even though he took stick.

“But Gary turned out re­gard­less of what peo­ple were say­ing and he was never on the treat­ment ta­ble, not want­ing to come out.That showed real guts – I re­ally ad­mire him, as a player and a per­son.”

In fair­ness, Cald­well has never taken the easy route. As a 16year-old on the books at Celtic in 1997, he turned his back on the Bhoys to join brother Steven at New­cas­tle, rea­son­ing with re­mark­able ma­tu­rity that home com­forts could hin­der his progress.

“I de­cided that I wanted to leave home and eat, sleep and drink foot­ball,” he said.“If you’ve got your Mum and Dad look­ing af­ter you, it’s too easy. I wanted to de­velop and to this day I don’t re­gret it be­cause that ex­pe­ri­ence made me the player I am.” Nor did the man Celtic fans

sere- naded as hav­ing “the big­gest heed in the SPL” lack the courage to fight his cor­ner – how­ever undig­ni­fied or in­flam­ma­tory the means.

Hav­ing spent a suc­cess­ful sea­son on loan at Tony Mow­bray’s Hibs – win­ning two Scot­land caps along the way – the then 20-yearold re­turned to St James’ Park determined to force a move to the Scot­tish side.

“He came knock­ing at my door in tears, beg­ging me to let him sign for Hibs, say­ing he was homesick,” re­called leg­endary Toon boss Sir Bobby Rob­son in 2004.“In the end I was sick of the tears and let him go.”

Later, with his con­tract run­ning down at Celtic and that player of the year award in his pocket, Cald­well re­fused to budge on wage de­mands of £19,000 a week, even go­ing public to air his griev­ances.

It was the be­gin­ning of the end at Celtic Park but, while it sul­lied his frag­ile rep­u­ta­tion with sup­port­ers, Stra­chan re­fused to get stuck in. “Gary came to us for noth­ing and many peo­ple don’t like it when play­ers come for noth­ing be­cause they as­sume noth­ing means bad,” he said.“But he proved that is wrong. He proved that noth­ing, with will, de­ter­mi­na­tion and char­ac­ter, can make a great player.”


Signed by Pre­mier League Wi­gan in 2010, Cald­well was named cap­tain by Roberto Martinez the fol­low­ing sea­son and, in 2012, col­lected an­other player of the year award.

Then he jointly lifted the FA Cup as club cap­tain, along­side Em­mer­son Boyce, in 2013 at Wem­b­ley af­ter that re­mark­able victory over Man City, though he didn’t get on.

Ex-Wi­gan man James McCarthy re­mem­bers his skip­per as a quiet man who trans­formed into a bel­low­ing leader on the pitch – and an un­der­rated foot­baller.

“Gary was great for us,” said McCarthy, who also played against Cald­well as a Hamil­ton player.“He liked a tackle, and he wasn’t the eas­i­est man to get around be­cause he’s a big boy who knew how to be phys­i­cal.

“He could send the ball long and short which is great when you’re un­der pres­sure. I al­ways liked his tech­nique as he had good con­trol and read the game re­ally well. But he also kept things sim­ple when it was needed, which is what you want in a cen­tre-half.”

Now, af­ter in­jury forced his re­tire­ment at 32, Cald­well has been tasked with bring­ing that quiet as­sur­ance to the dugout – and re­build­ing Wi­gan, more than likely in League One. Ac­cord­ing to Press­ley, he is the per­fect choice.

“He’s a good in­flu­ence on those around him and is an in­tel­li­gent lad,” he said. “More im­por­tantly, he’s a nat­u­ral leader – some­one you would want with you in the trenches.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

FRESH-FACED: Wi­gan manager Gary Cald­well looks on ahead of his side’s mid­week de­feat at Mill­wall

GLORY DAYS: Wi­gan’s Gary Cald­well and Em­mer­son Boyce show off the FA Cup dur­ing the victory pa­rade in 2013

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