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Calderwood article in the Scotsman


BobbyBiscuit
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Interesting article in today's Scotsman. A couple of digs at Hertz too, which is nice.

 

Cup fever weighs heavily on Calderwood

 

 

Jimmy Calderwood has a mountain of expectation upon his shoulders

 

 

NO WONDER Jimmy Calderwood is walking around Pittodrie in a cold sweat. It is the first Scottish Cup weekend of the year, a time traditionally ripe for giant-killing. For Aberdeen, a team who have foundered in successive seasons against lower league opposition, opponents who glory in being known as the Wasps fit the profile of pests they would have preferred to avoid.

Alloa, who triumphed over Aberdeen in the Pittodrie side's first ever Scottish Cup tie in 1904, have since switched to a plastic pitch, another undesired development as far as Aberdeen are concerned. All that was required to turn the trip to Recreation Park into an even more fretful adventure was for a debilitating bug to spread through the corridors of Pittodrie. That duly arrived, hence Calderwood's wet brow and spluttering cough. Many Aberdeen players have also not been spared.

 

Calderwood might be under the weather, but he operates under no illusions. The desire for a trophy among those connected to the club bubbles like the oil beneath the North Sea crust. In his recent autobiography, The Don, Willie Miller recalls outlining to Calderwood, with whom he once played alongside in a Glasgow primary schools' select, that "I wanted us to win a trophy, sooner rather than later... I felt the fans deserved a bit of excitement from a stirring cup run."

 

This conversation occurred on the club's tour to South Africa in the summer of 2006. Weeks later came a CIS Cup defeat against Third Division amateurs Queen's Park that was described as an all-time low for Aberdeen, and Calderwood. The following season's 4-3 loss to Queen of the South, this time at the semi-final stage of the Scottish Cup, was perhaps a yet more desolate affair. The agony of a thwarted comeback, and on such a high-profile stage, translated as torment at the hands of the First Division club. It also served to obscure the memory of a thrilling Uefa Cup adventure.

 

On both occasions Calderwood retreated to his Bridge of Don home with the barbs ringing in his ears, but he has survived to breathe in the sea air as he drives into work each morning. "The sea has something," says someone better known for sun-worship. "I have to pass it every day. Whatever way it is, it cheers you up."

 

There is no mystery in his continued residency in a part of the world his wife, Sue, also loves, although he advises her not to get too comfortable. "Look, we might get kicked out of here," he cautions.

 

When he left Dunfermline to take over at Pittodrie in 2004 it meant leaving a fourth-placed SPL club for one which finished second from last. Since then Aberdeen have finished in third position once, fourth on two occasions, and also fifth. It is not a record for which he deserves being booted out into the street.

 

"We have survived it," he says, referring to himself and Jimmy Nicholl, his assistant of nine years. "There might not be too many people who are happy we have survived it at certain moments. But that's the style of this club. Arsenal are the same down in England."

 

His message to his players is simple: "don't f*** about with contracts". It is also stark: "After this club for most of them it is downhill. Maybe not Lee Miller, (Andrew] Considine and (Zander] Diamond. (Scott] Severin has another chance, Jamie Smith if he comes back, and Sone (Aluko] definitely. And some of the younger ones might go higher. But the rest of them? Just enjoy it. Don't f*** about with contracts. Where are you going to go? Here you get your money on time, great facilities, everything is there for them. All they have to do is go out and play football."

 

He remains alert to his own advice as he peers into the future, and a possible life away from a club aching for a reason to celebrate. "I keep getting told by wee Davie Wylie, the physio, that we are a one-city club and are allowed an open-topped bus," he says. "That would be a fabulous going away present – along with third place."

 

It is not the first time Calderwood – under contract for another two and a half years – has contemplated going out in a shower of red-and-white ticker tape at Hampden. Last season, prior to the Scottish Cup semi-final, he made the perhaps fatal mistake of considering bowing out having won Aberdeen's first trophy in 13 years. This wait has now stretched to 14 years since the Pittodrie side defeated Dundee to lift the Coca Cola Cup in 1995, a period which matches Aberdeen's longest stretch without a trophy (1956-1970) since the Second World War.

 

"Fourteen years?," he repeats. "I laugh at that. I was at Birmingham City – a massive club. I don't think they have ever won anything except one League Cup. People will always perceive Aberdeen (as a side which should be successful], because of that nuisance down in Manchester. What about Hibs, what about Hearts? What about Falkirk? What about Dundee United? Celtic and Rangers are usually going to win one of the cups every second year, so that cuts the 14 years down to seven years or so.

 

"I wouldn't want to leave the club without having won something," he continues. Asked what he would prefer, Scottish Cup glory or third-place in the league, he replies: "Probably now it would be win the Scottish Cup because I have been third. I would normally say third because it is about consistency. Let's say fourth and win the Scottish Cup. I will take that."

 

Calderwood points out that Aberdeen have lost only one home cup tie in his time at the club, against Rangers. He is keen to see Pittodrie retain the intimidating ardour of a recent league match against Hearts, when the old ground rumbled with menace. The rivalry with the Edinburgh club dates back to a post-match tunnel incident at Tynecastle which saw Steven Pressley celebrate a victory with his familiar thumped chest routine: "That's what we are about, that's what we are about!" he roared. Willie Miller was among those who did not take kindly to this outburst. The following season, after an Aberdeen triumph against the same opponents, he mimicked Pressley, fist-into-chest gestures and all.

 

A laughing Calderwood shakes his head at the memory. The anecdote reveals what football does to people in the hothouse of Aberdeen. Miller, this heavily decorated legend (and current director of football) had allowed himself to be caught up in it all again. It is a city which also trades on its memories, where Dean Windass, who hasn't played for the club in more than a decade, still provides exclusives about his heart-ache at Hull City in a column for the evening paper. Providing they show the required desire, players can build durable reputations for themselves here.

 

"Sometimes the thought of coming up here is hard for players," ponders Calderwood. "But once they are up here? They can be treated like kings if they want to be. It can be difficult too, though. There's local radio, television and papers in the morning and papers at night. Hearts and Hibs don't have it continually like we do. It can be an intense, hard place to come. Barry Nicholson's a great player, but he didn't kick a ball here for the first six months. He had poor games and people were writing all kinds of things. I had to say, 'look, settle down'. They are so enthusiastic and want to please. Lee Miller had a problem at the start, so did Mark Kerr, Gary McDonald, Steve Lovell. They are all good professionals but they found it tough."

 

Of recent, permanent managers, only Steve Paterson has been pushed out the door, but this, by his own admission, was an inevitable consequence of personal issues making it impossible for him to work to the required standard. It would be difficult to ever claim Calderwood stints on his duties. His frantic itinerary has made it easy for his immune system to be attacked by whatever viruses wish to afflict the run-down. On Monday night he was in Newcastle viewing a reserve game. His description of a return from a scouting mission in England last season was memorable, featuring as it did a battle up the summit at Shap as the wind, hail and snow swirled. This time it was a late-night trip up the other side of the country which saw him return home at 2am. He was at Pittodrie by 8am, bound for Alloa and a familiarisation session on the synthetic turf. He has ordered Nicholl to tell him if he ever discerns a dimming of passion.

 

It doesn't seem likely. This quality has informed everything Calderwood has done since his days as a player, and perhaps helped lead to his exit from Birmingham. A set-to with manager Jim Smith, after Calderwood had been "murdered" by Peter Marinello in a game against Fulham, hastened his departure from St Andrews. "I am convinced I would probably be manager there by now if I had not left," Calderwood says.

 

It was the start, though, of a two-decade spell spent working in Holland, where three of his children still live. But he is now so ingrained in Scottish football's culture that he was the fidgeting subject of parody in the BBC Scotland programme Only An Excuse on Hogmanay.

 

"At least they know you are alive," he smiles. "Jonathan (Watson] is wonderful – he really is. I was away but I taped it. Or at least my daughter taped it for me. I don't think my ma' is too happy but my daughter was killing herself laughing."

 

The catalogue of catastrophes Dons will not wish to add to

 

IF THE names Bohemians and Skonta Riga still haunt Aberdeen supporters every time their team embark on a European campaign, then the names Stenhousemuir and Queen of the South, to name but two, will no doubt bring back unhappy memories whenever they set off on the road to Hampden. Here, we look at five domestic cup disasters for the Pittodrie club . . .

 

STENHOUSEMUIR 2, ABERDEEN 0

Scottish Cup, fourth round

 

(18 February, 1995)

 

Roy Aitken's side had beaten Rangers 2-0 at Pittodrie the previous week and headed to Ochilview in confident mood. Perhaps too confident. Terry Christie's Second Division team played with confidence and composure and, after holding the Dons to 0-0 at half-time, they progressed to the quarter-finals thanks to two goals from a dairy farmer – Tommy Steele twice slotting the ball beyond Theo Snelders from close range.

 

ABERDEEN 0, LIVINGSTON 1

Scottish Cup, third round

 

(23 January, 1999)

 

John Robertson isn't just a Scottish Cup hero for Hearts fans. Livingston supporters also had reason to hail the striker when his goal put Aberdeen out of the competition in the third round in 1999. Managed by Paul Hegarty, the Dons team had the likes of Derek Whyte, Eoin Jess and Robbie Winters in their ranks but lost out to a second-half goal at home to Livingston, who were then still plying their trade down in the Second Division.

 

ABERDEEN 1, LIVINGSTON 6

League Cup, third round

 

(9 October, 2001)

 

Much improved from that 1999 team, Livingston were now an SPL outfit, but losing six goals at Pittodrie was a disaster for Ebbe Skovdahl and his players. Barry Wilson (2), Massimo Caputo (2) Stuart Lovell and David Bingham got the visitors' goals, while Darren Mackie, who should play against Alloa this afternoon, grabbed the hosts' consolation.

 

QUEEN'S PARK 0, ABERDEEN 0 (Queen's Park win 5-3 on penalties)

League Cup, second round

 

(22 August, 2006)

 

This was Jimmy Calderwood's first cup shocker in charge of Aberdeen. The match was moved to Firhill because the Rolling Stones were playing at Hampden but the Spiders didn't need home advantage. The Dons were woeful and failed to break down the Third Division amateurs in 120 minutes of football. Darren Mackie's missed penalty led to chants of 'you're not fit to wear the shirt' from furious Aberdeen supporters.

 

QUEEN OF THE SOUTH 4, ABERDEEN 3

Scottish Cup, semi-final

 

(12 April, 2008)

 

This was one of the most entertaining Scottish Cup games in history, unless you were an Aberdeen supporter. Calderwood's men were never in front at Hampden and the identity of the man who scored the winner – former Pittodrie fringe player John Stewart – rubbed salt into their gaping wounds.

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