Gary Caldwell: From 'Deid' to 'Heid' in 18 Months

Last updated : 17 April 2009 By Clydebuilt
The news that Gary Caldwell has been short listed in this seasons Player of the Year competition is a surprise for many, none more so than the player himself. Caldwell has had mixed fortunes in his time at Celtic after having to bounce back from a horror show at Benfica a few seasons ago and then repair his reputation after a much-criticised spell at right back.

It would appear now that Gary has won the majority over with some gutsy displays. Armed with a driving force and willingness to take responsibility when the chips are down Caldwell has quietly set about proving his doubters wrong with some impressive performances.

Those of us who have been defending him since he was signed are now glad that their faith in the player has been vindicated. Whilst accepting that the spell after the Benfica game was hard to take I find myself having new admiration for the player in the way that he gets on with things in the face of such harsh and , at times, unwarranted abuse.

Caldwell said: "I don't think there was a particular turning point for me.

"There was obviously the spell I had at right-back when I took a bit of stick. I was the scapegoat for what was going on at the time.

"After I got through that and went back to centre-back I could really show what I could do. I wanted to be judged as a centre-half, which is what the manager said I should be.

"Having come through all that, it makes this nomination more satisfying. Every player in his career will have ups and down, times when you get stick, but you've got to live with it.

"You have got to get through it and if you do then it's only going to make you better.

"It has made me a stronger person, a stronger character to go and play football for such a massive club like Celtic.

"I always said that I would listen to people in the game. It was nice to see the manager sticking up for me and I also read a piece where Gary McAllister stuck up for me as well.

"When I got credit from football folk it made me stronger and the rest I took with a pinch of salt.

"There are so many opinions in this country. The debates rage on and on. You have to just put it out your mind. If you do take offence then it's only going to get you down."

Caldwell was typically modest when he was asked to comment on the nominations that he received from his fellow professionals.

Caldwell revealed: "It's something I didn't expect. As a defender it's difficult to get noticed so it's a great honour for people you play against every week to notice me and put me in the top four.

"I voted for Steve Davis. You can't vote for someone in your own team and obviously Scott Brown has had an excellent season as well, but I went for Steve.

"He has been a real inspiration to the Rangers midfield. You vote for who you believe is the best player in the league. If you don't you are cheating the competition and shouldn't vote.

"Having played against Steve and everyone else in Scotland, that's just my opinion. We all have different ones and that's what makes it a close race.

"But I think the four who are nominated wouldn't mind losing this to win the big one. Our aim at the start of every season is to be the team of the year and win the league.

"The automatic Champions League places make it all the more vital. We had a play-off against Spartak Moscow a few years back and we don't want to go through all that, as exciting as it was and as good a win as it was.

"It was a really hard night and you are going to have that kind of task again. Coming through that was great for us but you don't know whether you would get the breaks as we did.

"A lot of players will tell you the Champions League is a massive bonus. You don't want to be sitting in your house watching. That would be a huge disappointment.

"So we have six games to make sure we aren't watching but playing in the games. We all want that again."

Caldwell was quick to expand on the notion that he would have voted for his Celtic team mate Scott Brown if the rules allowed it.

Caldwell said: "Scott had a difficult season. Personally he had to deal with a lot of things which must have been difficult for anyone to come back from.

"Scott has proved what a top player he is. Football can take a back seat at times and it probably didn't mean as much as it does now.

"He's got that hunger back along with the tenacity and bite. He will be suspended again but that's the Scott Brown you need.

"He scraps for everything and he deserves to be in the top four."

Finally, Gary was quick to reaffirm the Champions title credentials. "The difference is that we are the team getting chased. You are written off as soon as two points are dropped. Now we are one ahead and its win or bust.

"We have to get back to last season's mentality. Win every game and we're champions. We have the League Cup but we've got to win everything. That's the challenge and mentality you need to be at Celtic."

Yours in Celtic