First posted on Facebook, May 14th, 2016
Eric Caldow will turn 82 today. For a lot of us the moment we hear the name Eric Caldow we think of his broken leg in the game against England, suffered early into the game in April, 1963 and how Scotland went on to beat England with ten men; thanks to goals by Jim Baxter.
However, the real story of Eric is really about a player who was known as ‘Mr. Consistent’ rarely missing games, in fact he was capped 40 times for Scotland, from April 1957 to April 1963 and only missed two games in that period.
His Scotland career started where it finished; at Wembley Stadium in April ’57. After winning the League with Rangers for two seasons in a row Eric was brought into the Scotland set-up replacing Falkirk’s Alex Parker at right back. Eric was only player making his debut in a team full of tried and tested players such as George Young and Ian McColl of Rangers. McColl would go to manage Scotland as would Tommy Docherty who was also in the line-up that day. Lawrie Reilly of Hibs, Willie Fernie and Bobby Collins of Celtic also featured.
Scotland got off to a good start with Off the Ball favourite Tommy Ring scoring after a minute but goals by Derek Kevan and then Duncan Edwards gave England the victory. Edwards was of course, one of Busby’s Babes and would be a victim of the Munich Air Disaster in February 1958.
Better times were to follow for Caldow and Scotland as they competed in two World Cup matches in early May. First up was a 4-2 victory over Spain at Hampden with Jackie Mudie of Blackpool hitting what is probably Scotland’s most vital hat-trick ever and a penalty from Eric’s full back partner John Hewie of Charlton Athletic. Then over a week later on May 19th Scotland played Switzerland in Basle coming away with a 2-1 win Mudie once more on the score sheet. Jackie would only play 17 times for Scotland but has a goal tally of 9 which is a very healthy return.
A friendly against West Germany in Stuttgart followed three days later which the Scots won 3-1 with Bobby Collins hitting a double and Mudie the other.
There’s no way in the modern era Scotland would have such a hectic schedule as four days later they played Spain in the Bernabeu and were crushed 4-1 with the great Gordon Smith scoring the Scots consolation goal. The advantage however, was still with the Scots as the Spanish had opened their campaign with a 2-2 draw with the Swiss. The combined attendances for Eric’s first five games for Scotland equals a staggering 404,410.
Scotland played Switzerland in November, 1957 and a meagre 58,811 turned up to see Scotland beat the Swiss 3-2. There must have been a few nervous folk around when after goals from Archie Robertson of Clyde, Mudie and Alex Scott of Rangers; Vonlanthen of Switzerland scored to make it 3-2 with ten minutes remaining. Interestingly Caldow had switched from right back to left to accommodate Alex Parker’s return to the team as he would do on a few occasions.
Eric would play in all three games of the 1958 World Cup as Scotland opened with 1-1 draw with Yugoslavia and followed it with a 3-2 defeat to Paraguay and lost in their final game to France 2-1 with two giants of French football scoring in in the game; Just Fontaine would score a total of 13 goals in six games in the World Cup and still holds that record for any one tournament. The other scorer was Raymond Kopa who would be an integral part in the early days of Real Madrid’s European dominance.
After the World Cup, Scotland would start to produce some great young talent such as Denis Law, John White and Ian St. John, however Eric would retain his place and won his 22nd cap back at Wembley once more in April, 1960. Scotland drew 1-1 that day with Frank Haffey of Celtic making his first of two Scotland appearances. Alex Young then of Hearts would make debut that day too. Graham Leggat would score an early first half goal for Scotland with Bobby Charlton hitting the equaliser from the spot in the second half.
Eric would score four goals for Scotland all from the penalty spot and the first would come in the city of Ankara as Scotland played Turkey in June 1960, for the one and only time in their history thus far. Scotland lost 4-2 and not only is Caldow one of only eleven Scots to face Turkey; he is one of only two Scots to score against Turkey as well; Alex Young being the other.
The following October and Eric was named as captain of the side for the first time; an honour he hold fifteen times in total and all in consecutive games. The first three games of that series were in the 1960-61 Home International series where Scotland would be involved in games that would see an accumulation of 21 goals. Sadly Scotland would lose 13 of these following a 2-0 defeat to Wales, a 5-2 victory over the Irish with Eric contributing a converted penalty and finally a 9-3 crushing by England at Wembley.
World Cup action would return in May ’61 and begin with home and away wins against the Republic of Ireland; winning 4-1 at Hampden and 3-0 at Dalymount Park, Dublin. However, success came to a grinding halt in Bratislava as Czechoslovakia put 4 past Lawrence Leslie in goals without reply. However, parity was resumed in September as Scotland won 3-2 with Denis Law striking the winner with seven minutes remaining.
Scotland were successful in the first two games of the ’61-’62 British Championships recording a 6-1 away win v Northern Ireland followed by a 2-0 win over Wales in the winter of ’61. It was traditional at this time that the first two games of the Home Internationals were always played in October, November and the game against the Auld Enemy in the spring of the following year.
However, late November ’61 would see Scotland compete in a World Cup play-off against the Czechs in Brussels. A depleted Scotland side would eventually lose out in extra time goals as the Czechs who ran out 4-2 winners. The Czechs would go on to contest the World Cup Final losing 3-1 to Brazil in Santiago, Chile.
However, come the spring of ’62 Scotland would win the British Championship outright with their first victory over England at Hampden since before the Second World War. Scotland won 2-0 with Davie Wilson of Rangers hitting the opener in 13 minutes. The home fans would have to wait ‘til the 88th minute and Eric scoring a penalty before they could truly celebrate. It had been a long time coming.
The latter half of the year would see Scotland score victories over both Wales (3-2 with Eric scoring once more from the spot) and Northern Ireland (5-1) before heading to Wembley and destiny.
Fate would not be kind to Eric in April ’63 as he would have his leg broken in three different places following a tackle by Bobby Smith of England early in the game; however it would cement the reputation of his fellow Ger; as Jim Baxter scored both goals that day including a penalty to give Scotland an unlikely victory with ten men.
Eric would take a while to recover and would make his way back into the Rangers team but by all accounts was never the same player and indeed never regained his place in the Scotland team. His forty caps must be the equivalent of over 60 nowadays and indeed it’s sad to think his final cap came at the age of 28.
Happy Birthday to Eric, one of the grand old men of Scottish football and all the best to you.