Caldwell discusses Sunderland spell
Steven Caldwell became one of the rare examples of a player moving directly from Newcastle United to Sunderland when he signed for the club back in 2004.
The Scottish central defender spoke with PlanetFootball about his move to the Stadium of Light, and explained during the interview that he was desperate to stay in the North East but was worried about the reception he would get from both sets of fans:
I really wanted to stay in the North East, I knew I wanted to play, and I knew I would be taking a risk by staying in the Premier League.
When Mick McCarthy called me it was strange at first but then we started discussing things; Sunderland were a big Championship team just up the road, they were getting 30,000 every week.
It was perfect for my career so I never gave it too much thought. I was very aware of the rivalry. I think Newcastle fans appreciated what I gave, and I wasn’t choosing to go to Sunderland, but I was choosing to play football.
I had such a good relationship with them, I’d have been surprised if that ended. So I was cool from that side, but I was worried about being accepted by the Sunderland fans because I was coming across from Newcastle and it might not happen for me.
I knew what it was like for players in the North East when home fans get on your back; that’s it, you’re done, it doesn’t matter who you are.
During his spell with Sunderland, he was part of the team that were relegated from the Premier League with a then record low of 15 points. Caldwell believes the number of changes made in the transfer market and the subsequent downturn of team spirit was the main factor of that dreadful season:
There were a number of things responsible for that, the main one being the difference in quality between the Premier League and the Championship, maybe our strengths from before didn’t transfer to a different level; the attitude and the togetherness.
A lot of that togetherness was affected by Sunderland bringing in too many players. I always said we should have brought in two or three really good players rather than seven or eight who, in the end, were no better than what we already had.
We affected the team spirit but didn’t improve the squad. At Wigan, Henri Camara came in and they made a couple of signings that worked out. But confidence is a big thing; they started well and it grew.
We did the opposite. Against Charlton at home in the first game we thought, ‘Here we go.’ We weren’t banking on three points, but it was a chance to get off to a good start. They beat us 3-1.
You sat in the changing room at full-time and thought, ‘The gap is huge.’ It was a real wake-up call.
We were in a lot of games but losing. We were nearly there, but miles away. It was difficult. Confidence dropped throughout the year for the players and Mick. It was hard playing at that stadium when we were losing games.
Caldwell also briefly worked under Roy Keane at Sunderland before he departed for Burnley and describes his former as a difficult man, who he found weird rather than scary when the Irishman started shouting:
He was a difficult man. It was his first job and I think he still had a player’s mentality. He could either be really good or nonsensical. I was injured when he came in. I’d done my knee in a game against Birmingham so I didn’t play for a while but then played a number of games.
I thought it would be okay, but he wanted me to go and brought in Jonny Evans on loan. He formed a great partnership with Nyron Noseworthy and they ended up winning the Championship.
I went off to Burnley, no hard feelings. You have to move on. Roy isn’t a warm person; I knew him for a few months so maybe I’m not the person to say, but sometimes he would walk straight past you in the corridor, other times he would have a chat with you.
It was so up and down with him. I think he revels in the character he’s created. He’s also got a brilliant football mind, but it was a tough time in my career.
We had quite a messy end, and I was saddened by that, but that’s football. I don’t think he handled many relationships well. He was very combustible. Maybe he’s mellowed out now, but as a coach, you have to get to know people and he never took the time to do that.
The one thing I didn’t like about when I left was that he said I was good at organising parties, nights out and events. I just thought, ‘Well, I was more than that.’
I had no fear of Roy Keane. The public thinks that everyone is scared of him; I never thought that once. I was more scared of other managers; guys you wouldn’t believe, like Chris Hughton, Walter Smith, these guys are scary.
But when Roy got into that erratic state, it wasn’t scary, it was weird. There are other people who know him better, but that’s my experience.
If you shout and shout, eventually people stop listening. Chris was a brilliant guy, and when you gain so much respect for someone, if you let him down or he was angry, it was scary. I wouldn’t mess with him.
Highlights of Sunderland under-23 win
Sunderland under-23s won 5-3 against Fulham in Premier League 2 on Monday afternoon.
The game featured two goals for both Benji Kimpioka and recent signing from Hartlepool United Josh Hawkes, defender Patrick Almond also found the scoresheet, as Sunderland came back from 3-1 down.
Midfielder Elliot Embleton made his comeback after injury and Fulham have posted the highlights on their official website which you can watch by clicking HERE.
Lemon on advice from former Sunderland manager
With the news that former Sunderland midfielder Paul Lemon was appointed chief scout of National League outfit Chesterfield, he has given an interview to the Derbyshire Times about what he will bring to the club.
Lemon said that he will have one eye on the future and revealed that former Sunderland manager Denis Smith gave him a bit of advice regarding scouting that he still takes note of:
I’m not going to sit here and say we are going to pull gems out at every game because that won’t happen.
The days of pulling a Jamie Vardy are still there, but they are getting less and less because a lot of them don’t fall through the system now.
John Croot has already told me we have got to keep an eye on the future. Scouting is about the here and now at this moment at this club, but also we have to keep an eye on next year because we will need to be ready for it.
If we are going down the under-23 route they have got to be coachable in my opinion because they are playing where they are for a reason, if they are playing non-league, they are playing there for a reason, they are not the finished article.
So we need to bring in players that the coaches can work with and see the potential. They could be diamonds which are not quite polished up properly.
My old manager at Sunderland Denis Smith told me if you see somebody after 90 minutes and he has had a stinker but can do something that the others on the pitch can’t, then you need to go and have another look at him.
I think we’ve got to keep it pretty localised in that I will probably go as far as Leeds, Leicester, Birmingham, Manchester, because a lot of players are going to have to commute.
It is pointless me saying I have got a fantastic player at Tottenham and he wants to go play men’s football somewhere because he isn’t going to commute from London everyday so I have got to be realistic.
There is Derby, Forest, the two Sheffield clubs, so there are teams we can go to and look at their 23s. The other one we will be looking at is free agents, but then you have to start asking yourself why they haven’t got a contract.