PO Box 306, Glasgow, G21 2AE, Scotland
so farewell then...
So the Heid wanders off down south in pursuit of the high wages that he’s no doubt heard about from his brother. The fact that we got him for nowt and sold him for a cool million is pretty good, and there’s also the fact that even after three years you wouldn’t find two Celtic supporters that would agree on his worth to the team.
He arrived in 2006 on a Bosman, much to the chagrin of Hibs, who had hoped that having nurtured him he would sign on again with them.
We actually had Caldwell at Celtic boys club, but he had decided that England was the place to be (does this sound strangely familiar?) and signed for Newcastle. Unsurprisingly he didn’t make much of an impact at St James’s Park, and over the next four seasons he went on loan to no fewer than four different teams (including Hibs).
By 2004 he finally admitted defeat and returned north, signing for Hibs. The only time I remembered him during his time at Easter Road was a fight he had with Craig Bellamy during a 3-1 win for Celtic in Edinburgh, but WGS saw something he liked and in January 2006 Caldwell signed a pre-season agreement with us.
His first game in the Hoops was a 4-1 home win against Killie. He did ok but one moment in the first half gave cause for concern as he attempted to run the ball out of defence, got robbed and gave Killie their first real chance of the game.
That seemed to set the tone for his entire time with us; whatever he did there was a section of the crowd that was just waiting for him to make a hellish error, and often they didn’t wait too long.
But frequently Caldwell and McManus were our most secure central defensive partnership. Perhaps not the best we had (many preferred Bobo and a fully fit Kennedy was vastly superior to either) but these two played reasonably well together. They had clearly defined roles and mainly were pretty reliable.
Frustratingly, Caldwell’s good - often excellent - performances were usually swiftly followed by a catastrophe. The best example is probably the two legs of the Champions League games against Benfica.At home in the 3-0 win he was immense, absolutely commanding at the back; in the away leg he was like Harpo Marx, scoring an own goal for the first, caught out by the bounce for the second and deflecting a shot in for the third.
Nevertheless, in season 2007-8 he emerged as something of a cult hero as the run-in began.
Strangely it all started during the defeat at Ibrox that seemed to be the death knell to our league hopes. During the second half almost everything we did of note came through Caldwell. He was the one forcing the game, putting the huns on the back foot.
The game at Celtic Park two weeks later reinforced the idea. All through the second half Caldwell stepped forward with the ball driving the game forward. The winner came from a knock down off a Caldwell pass.
The song “Gary Caldwell has the biggest heid in the SPL” sprang up and the chant of “Heid, heid, heid” became common at games.
But someone who plays like that is always likely to attract as much flack as praise and that was how it worked out. Last season we lost the league because of a lack of goals, but still Caldwell and McManus attracted the most abuse.
This season was dead in the water as soon as his wage demands leaked out. Basically he’s heard what his brother is earning and fancies a bit of that for himself.
On the one hand, fair enough, everyone has the right to maximise their earning potential and football has a small time-frame for earnings potential.
Then again, he wasn’t going to be on the minimum wage at Celtic and of course he had to make the choice any player who signs for Celtic has to make; either go south to the lower reaches of the EPL and earn the £20k+ per week fighting relegation or ‘make do’ with circa £8 - £15k per week and, if you do it right, gather medals every season, play Champions League football and get yourself in to the book of Celtic legend.
Gary tried option one, thinking he had already secured option two.
The guys who secured option two had the choice and chose Celtic.
Heid leaves with two SPL medals and one each from the two cups.