Sunday, September 20, 2009

Keeping the Heid?

"[It] merely confirms the the long held conviction that, in sport as in many other professions, the largest conceits are driven by the smallest talents."
So said Glenn Gibbons in yesterday's Scotsman. On this occasion Glenn was talking about Kris Boyd. But how appropriate his sentiment is for one of Boyd's Old Firm colleagues.

Last week Celtic fans would be forgiving for asking just who or what Gary Caldwell thinks he is.

I've written before about Gary's ongoing battle to keep his mouth shut. This week he's been at it again.

First up he announced that Celtic would win this season's Europa League. And then he let all and sundry know how very, very hurt he was at Celtic's apparently miserly offer of a new contract.

The backdrop to all this was Celtic's draw with Dundee United and timid capitulation to Hapoel Tel Aviv. As ever Gary displayed a sense of timing not seen since the Chuckle Brothers bombed in their Walsall pantomime appearance of 1987.

Because, as much as he thinks he is indispensable, Thursday night made unpleasant viewing for the few supporters Gary has left.

His selection as a defensive midfielder immediately hinted that Tony Mowbray's assessment of Gary as an indispensable centre half does not quite tally with Gary's own glowing appraisal of his talents.

Casting aside that disappointment he made his mark on the game by setting up Celtic's opening goal.

And that was it. As he often does Caldwell seemed to think that one contribution confirmed his own belief that he is a far better footballer than his ability would suggest.

That one pass led to a succession of efforts to split the defence open. Pinging the ball with the outside of his boot all over the park he displayed an almost freakish consistency in finding wide open space, the touchline or a defender.

The holding role that he was supposed to be filling was, understandably, neglected as he stormed over the pitch attempting to bring the full weight of his genius and personality to bear on a game that he clearly felt was his to control.

The result was that an atypically cagey Mowbray formation lost all shape and whatever semblance of initiative or control they enjoyed in the early stages.

Now Gary was not the only offender on the night. But he was the only one to perform poorly after predicting Celtic could win the tournament and then demanding parity with the club's highest paid players.

Hubris I think they call it. In the months since Mowbray took charge at Celtic does Gary Caldwell really think his performances put him in the upper echelons of the club's earners?

Does he not think the decision to draft Stephen McManus in for his first start spoke volumes about his manager's (lack of) faith in him?

It seems not. No matter how big the club, the game or the tournament nothing will ever match the splendid size of Gary Caldwell's ego.

And what of Mowbray in all this. He's keen to point out that matters financial are nothing to do with him. He also knows, however, that Gary Caldwell has some experience of speaking out of turn to hide the fact that he's ultimately decided to run down his contract and move elsewhere. Mowbray was Hibs' manager when Caldwell engineered his move to Celtic Park.
"There is the equation of business against football. I need to make sure that, in a couple of transfer windows,my squad is deeper, stronger and full of good players. If Gary Caldwell is part of that, so be it. If he is not a part of it, we have somebody who is."
Anyone but Gary Caldwell would realise that this falls short of a stunning endorsement from a manager. Gary will probably just be happy that people are talking about him.

Where Gary ends up is unclear. But we know today that if he is to seek pastures new there will be few tears shed in Glasgow. Don't bet against Tony Mowbray packing him off into the sunset: Old Firm life is beset by plonkers. You can do without having the biggest one of all in your team.