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Friday, April 27, 2001
Caldwell can be new 'Braveheart'
By Brian Scott and Roger Hannah

Scotland fans would have warmed instantly to Stephen Caldwell yesterday had they been around to hear his graphic account of the goings-on in Poland the previous evening.

'We were getting elbowed and kicked,' he said about the opposition in Bydgoszcz. 'Some of their tackles, with the studs showing, were shocking. But we're a hardy-enough bunch. It would have taken more than that to stop us.'

Was this really a 20-year old novice talking? He sounded more like some old campaigner such as Tom Boyd or, had he been involved in the Scots' creditable 1-1 draw with a patchwork side, Colin Hendry.

The Newcastle United player's 35 minutes of fame as a substitute against the Poles are likely to yield many more. Here, surely, is a Brave-heart in the making - a guy prepared to suffer countless bruises for the cause.

Craig Brown didn't just have the Stirling- born youngster's red hair in mind when he mused: 'I think he's a bit like Alex Mc Leish - big and strong, dominant in the air, and confident in his ability, without being bumptious.

'Stephen is the kind of guy you want when your backs are to the wall. Big Alex was that type.

'This guy's attitude is similar. There I was last night, apologising for asking him to play in midfield instead of central defence, which is his normal position.

'But all he said to me was: "No problemî. If I'd asked him to take his boots off and go and play barefoot for us up front, he'd have done it.'

Caldwell, who had to be poached hurriedly from the Under-21 squad when Steve Pressley was declared unfit to face the Poles, registered as one of seven new caps used by the Scots.

Barry Nicholson, Gavin Rae, John O'Neil, Andy McLaren, as well as Charlie and Kenny Miller, were the others, all of them doing well enough to earn pass marks in the view of the manager.

Yet it was impossible to escape the notion that Caldwell, whose number of Premiership appearances for Newcastle have barely reached double figures, possesses a better chance than most to make himself a fixture at this level. He has a presence, both on and on the field. He radiates determination and, while it may be a folly to heap too much praise on the unproven, gives the distinct impression that his head is not for turning.

'My main aim must be to establish myself at Newcastle,' said the tenderfoot, whose younger brother and club-mate, Gary, is currently making his way with Scotland's Under-21s.

'That may be easier said than done, given the quality of players there are at Newcastle. But I don't see why I can't make that progress, as long as I work hard.'

Scotland's stand- ins made a mockery of Roger Mitchell's 'diddy game' theory, with accomplished debuts in Poland on Wednesday evening.

The international rookies who replaced the established stars seized their opportunity and, in an ironic twist, allowed Mitchell and the SPL to bask in the reflection of their success.

'It was brilliant to see the lads do so well and I'm really happy for them,' said Dunfermline manager Jimmy Calderwood.

'Steve and Barry did their best and we'll just have to wait and see whether Craig believes they deserve another chance. Neither did their chances any harm.'

Kilmarnock manager Bobby Williamson is another SPL salesman with an optimistic outlook on Scottish football and, typically, he claimed the performance in Poland merely confirmed what he has said often - there is some promising native talent in our league.

'I t was great to see these guys getting their chance in international football and we must credit Craig because it is his head on the chopping block,' said Williamson.

'Look at Andy McLaren. I'm so pleased for him and his family after what he has been through, and I keep telling young players here that anything can be achieved if they work at their game.'


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