GARY Caldwell has been forced to call time on his remarkable career because his troublesome hip meant it was too painful to train, never mind play for struggling Wigan Athletic.
The former Celtic and Scotland captain did not want to contemplate the ultimate nightmare scenario but, at the age of 32, he knew it was over. Now, he is hoping to build a new career in coaching while doing anything he can to help Wigan out of the perilous position they occupy in the Championship.
The former Parkhead skipper, who won two titles – the Scottish Cup and the League Cup – has been given a role in the Wigan academy but he is unsure what will happen at the end of the season, particularly if the Latics plunge into League One.
Ironically, his last match for Wigan was against Queen’s Park Rangers in the Premiership Play-Off semi-finals last season, which indicates just how far the Lancashire club have fallen.
He won 55 caps for Scotland and, of course, famously scored the winner against France at Hampden on 7 October, 2006 to elate the nation.
Caldwell said: “That’s the end for me. I have been struggling for years, to be perfectly honest, and even training was becoming really painful. I had the second operation on my left hip just under two years ago and while it helped a little bit I was never the same again. I played four games and that was it.
“The first time I got the operation it was a success and it had a good effect. But the surgeon was honest with me when I went in the second time in the summer of 2013 and said that he wasn’t sure if it was going to help me. So it’s something I knew was coming. Of course, you want to play but I also wanted to get into coaching and I have the chance now rather than wondering ‘what am I going to do now?’
“In the summer I tried to keep playing but Uwe Rösler also wanted me to get involved in the academy side of the club.
“I tried to play as much as possible in pre-season but I was really struggling and I was in pain every day at training.”
New manager Malky Mackay, who is desperately trying to keep Wigan in the Championship, is hoping to give Caldwell a permanent coaching role next season but it may all depend on the club’s status.
Caldwell added: “Malky has said he hopes to keep me at the club but he’s not sure in what role yet.
“It’s been difficult for Malky for a variety of reasons but we need something to happen on the pitch.”