We catch up with Wi­gan Ath­letic man­ager Gary Cald­well

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

HE WON the FA Cup with Wi­gan, the Scot­tish Pre­mier League with Celtic and earned 55 caps for Scot­land. Yet Gary Cald­well will al­ways har­bour one re­gret.

Back in 2003, the cen­tre-half was a know-it-all teenager at New­cas­tle, con­vinced he was ready for a crack at the Premier­ship.

Man­ager Bobby Rob­son dis­agreed, send­ing Cald­well on loan to the likes of Dar­ling­ton, Coven­try and Derby. Frus­trated and an­gry, the Scot banged on the gaffer’s door once too of­ten. Rob­son snapped, flogged him to Hiber­nian and the pair never worked to­gether again.

“Look­ing back, Bobby is some­one I wish I’d treated dif­fer­ently,” ad­mits the Wi­gan boss. “At the time, I was young and thought I knew every­thing. Who doesn’t at that age?

“I thought I was ready to play. I thought he was be­ing un­fair. I spent so much time stew­ing that I didn’t watch or lis­ten to him any­where near as much as I should have.


“He was a fan­tas­tic man­ager, a great man. And in ret­ro­spect, every­thing he said to me made sense. He was try­ing to help me, to make sure I de­vel­oped prop­erly. But at the time I just thought he was past it and didn’t know what he was do­ing.

“If I’d worked with Bobby when I was 28, I think it would have been fan­tas­tic for my ca­reer. At 18, I just didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate how priv­i­leged I was to have him as a men­tor.”

At the time, Rob­son said Cald­well needed to grow up. Were the former England boss alive to­day, he would surely be im­pressed by Cald­well’s ma­tu­rity as a man­ager. The Wi­gan he in­her­ited in April was a mess. Rel­e­gated once and doomed to an­other, the 2013 FA Cup win­ners – bloated by big egos and big­ger earn­ers – were a sorry mock­ery of the side made great by chair­man Dave Whe­lan and boss Roberto Martinez.

Owen Coyle had failed to halt the slide. So too Uwe Rosler and Malky Mackay. Pre-week­end, the Lat­ics were un­beaten in nine and play­ing with a vi­brancy sel­dom seen in re­cent years. Not bad for a 33-year-old rookie straight off the park.

Asked to ex­plain why Wi­gan im­ploded so dra­mat­i­cally, Cald­well – a player at the DW from 2010 un­til his retirement through in­jury this year – is guarded.

“Bad de­ci­sions,” he says with a frown. “Bad de­ci­sions right through­out the club – the owner, the man­age­ment and the play­ers. There was a snow­ball ef­fect and, once that starts, it’s very dif­fi­cult to turn round.”

Yet Cald­well has done just that – and it be­gan in the sum­mer when 16 play­ers were bun­dled out of the exit to make way for young prospects like £1m striker Will Grigg and Man United grad­u­ate Reece James.

“First of all, I had to change the men­tal­ity of the play­ers,” he adds. “They were used to los­ing games. That’s why get­ting the new play­ers in was vi­tal – it feels like a fresh start, no bag­gage.

“Af­ter that, it was about get­ting ev­ery­one to feel part of it and get­ting the fans back on board. I wanted them to be ex­cited about com­ing to watch their team play, to see a set of play­ers fight­ing for the club.Too of­ten in foot­ball, play­ers just turn up, do their job, col­lect the money and leave. That won’t be tol­er­ated here.”

Cald­well knows all about fight­ing. Signed by Celtic from Hibs in 2006, Bhoys fans viewed him as a sym­bol of their de­cline, a sub­stan­dard free­bie un­fit to wear the shirt. Three years

later, he was their player of the year and a Cham­pi­ons League reg­u­lar.

“I wasn’t a mar­quee sign­ing,” he laughs. “And it’s fair to say the fans weren’t overly en­am­oured by me. I was play­ing at right-back, some­thing I’d never done, but the man­ager asked me to do a job. I kept work­ing and, bit by bit, I turned them round.”


In do­ing so, he was lay­ing the first foun­da­tions of a coach­ing ca­reer.

“From a very young age, I got on at peo­ple, pushed them about the park,” ex­plains Cald­well, who stud­ied for his coach­ing badges along­side Rangers boss Mark War­bur­ton.

“I made them do my job for me, ba­si­cally. I had to. I be­lieved in my abil­ity but I knew I wasn’t Rio Fer­di­nand. I was never the quick­est or the most ath­letic.

“So I had to think one step ahead of the op­po­si­tion. I had to work out the game and play it like a chess match in­stead of re­ly­ing on phys­i­cal at­tributes. Coach­ing grew from that.”

And never again would he make the mis­take of ig­nor­ing old heads, tak­ing ad­vice from the likes of Gor­don Stra­chan and then, fol­low­ing his move to Wi­gan in 2010, Roberto Martinez.

“Gor­don was a mas­sive in­flu­ence on my ca­reer,” says Cald­well, who won two Scot­tish ti­tles un­der Stra­chan. “He gave me a plat­form, gave me be­lief in my­self. He knew my weak­nesses and taught me not to fight them or try to dis­guise them. He gave me the con­fi­dence that play­ing to my strengths was good enough.

“Yes, he was in your face some­times. He knows what he wants and he’ll do any­thing to make sure he gets it. But he’s a great man­man­ager. When he says you’ve done well, you feel ten feet tall. When he’s dis­ap­pointed, you want to fall through the floor. Roberto was dif­fer­ent. If Gor­don was all about pas­sion and keep­ing things sim­ple, Roberto was more in-depth and com­plex.


“He showed me how to coun­ter­act sys­tems, how to use dif­fer­ent for­ma­tions to cause dif­fer­ent kinds of prob­lems. I was his cap­tain for three years and we had a lot of con­ver­sa­tions about the game. I’ve never known any­one so ob­sessed with foot­ball. “Both of them were in­valu­able to me and still are – I still talk to Gor­don and Roberto when I need a bit of ad­vice.”

Right now, though, Cald­well – with the back­ing of 23-year-old chair­man David Sharpe – is do­ing just fine on his own.

“I just want to get this club back to the top,” he adds. “That’s the re­mit from the chair­man. He doesn’t just want us out of League One. He wants us go­ing to places like Old Traf­ford and An­field again.

“It’s a club that means a lot to me. I spent longer here than any­where else in my ca­reer. And when I was out in­jured, I felt bad I couldn’t do any­thing to halt the de­cline. “To get this op­por­tu­nity feels like be­ing given that chance afresh and I’ll be work­ing as hard as I ever have to get this club back on its feet again.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

MA­TURE: Gary Cald­well has learned from the mis­takes he made ear­lier in his ca­reer

WISE GUYS: Sir Bobby Rob­son,

Gor­don Stra­chan and Roberto Martinez – the lat­ter cel­e­brat­ing a Cald­well goal against Liver­pool CHANCE TO SHINE: Wi­gan’s Will Grigg, left and Reece James

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