First posted on Facebook, 12th April, 2016
Happy Birthday to Gary who will turn 34 today. Gary gained fifty three caps for Scotland, scoring two goals, one of which; I, like a lot of you, will cherish for many years to come and yet. It’s fair to say that most of us, knew Gary gave all to the Scotland cause but we also know that like our current crop of central defenders; Gary could never be considered a Scotland great. When I think of commanding Scotland centre halves I think of McNeill, Holton, McQueen, Miller, McLeish and Hendry etc. and next to them, well Gary was just ordinary.
Gary was first capped as a Hibernian player when on loan from Newcastle in 2002. It was Berti Vogts who gave him his first cap in Berti’s first game. As we all probably recall we wuz humped 5-0 by France. Not the greatest of starts but at least Gary would get his revenge in years to come.
Gary was retained by Berti for his next three games; defeats against Nigeria, South Korea and South Africa but his first taste of victory in a Scotland shirt would have to wait a while yet; in fact two years later in a friendly in Tallinn during his seventh game for Scotland as the Scots ran out 1-0 winners thanks to a James McFadden goal. By this time Gary was a fully-fledged Hibs player.
Three days later, Gary scored his first Scotland goal against Trinidad and Tobago in a 4-1 for Scotland at Easter Road with Darren Fletcher, Gary Holt and Nigel Quashie providing the others. Gary’s brother Steven won his fourth cap that day coming on for Gary in the 78th Minute.
Gary continued to be picked by Berti until his inglorious reign of managership was over in November, 2005. Gary would win his 14th cap in Walter Smith’s first game in charge as the Scots lost 2-0 in Italy with Andrea Pirlo providing two moments of magic from free kicks to win the game.
Smith didn’t see Caldwell as his first choice centre half preferring the likes of Hearts’ Andy Webster and David Weir of Everton. However, Gary was part of the team that won the Kirin Cup in Japan 2006 playing in both the stunning 5-1 victory over Bulgaria and the draw with the host to win the Cup.
Gary won his 21st cap and his first as a Celtic player in September, 2006 in a 2-1 away win to Lithuania in Kaunas in a 2008 Euro Qualifier. Retained for the next game against France at Hampden in October, 2006, Gary’s great moment arrived. Scotland had taken a bit of a battering but some steadfast defending had kept the French at bay and then in the 66th minute Hampden erupted as loudly as it ever did as Gary prodded home from a corner. Could we hold out? You bet we could and soon we were “Rockin’ All Over The World “as Status Quo blasted out at full time. Not sure why we danced like crazy to a song written by an American and performed by an English band but hey we did.
Four days later and we crashed to Ukraine 2-0 in Kiev and Walter Smith would soon depart too. However, up stepped Alex McLeish but Gary was in the main overlooked by Alex who only picked him for two games in his ten games reign and both were friendlies.
George Burley would start his first game with Gary in the heart of the defence in March, 2008 in a friendly with Croatia at Hampden that ended in 1-1 draw with Kenny Miller providing the Scotland goal. Gary would play in most of Burley’s lamentable time in charge of Scotland and probably would have played in them all, had he not been sent off in Oslo against Norway. Scotland would lose 4-0 nil conceding all the goals after Gary’s sending off as he was booked twice within two minutes.
By the time of Craig Levein’s first game in charge Gary was a Wigan player. Gary played in the infamous game in Prague as part of an eleven man defence; that didn’t have a Plan B if the rather ordinary Czech team scored. Oops.
Cap 47 and Levein’s torturous reign had still not ended as Scotland drew 1-1 with Macedonia at Hampden in February 2012 in a World Cup qualifier. Gary was awarded the captaincy that night though and he would do so, three times in total.
His final cap came against Belgium in Brussels as Scotland lost 2-0; not so sad was that we lost Craig Levein soon after.
For the last few years Gary was plagued by injury or he may have been a part of Gordon Strachan’s squads . . . maybe. As for now after retiring, he’s doing quite well managing Wigan and here’s hoping they get promotion this year.
Happy Birthday Gary and although you may not have been the among the best that ever represented Scotland, you gave me and my son Ewan one of our most cherished shared moments in our lives. Thank you Gary and all the best.