BY PHIL SHAW
Colin Calderwood will next week complete one of football's more implausible odysseys, from Mansfield to Moscow, a mere 13 years after setting out.
At 30, and with only a Fourth Division championship medal to his name, the Tottenham centre-back may have rated his international prospects about as highly as Spurs' chances of winning the FA Cup before Alan Sugar's lawyers went to work. But Wembley beckons, and Calderwood was named yesterday in Scotland's squad for the European Championship qualifier in Russia a week tomorrow.
"Colin is the form player in a form team - a no-nonsense player, diligent marker and good user of the ball," Craig Brown, the Scotland manager, explained. "He's also got experience of the kind of atmosphere we'll encounter in Moscow, because he's playing in it every week."
That was not always the case. The son of a Stranraer ferryman, Calderwood had an ill-starred introduction to senior football as a 17-year-old with Mansfield. His signing forms did not reach the Football League before his debut at Crewe, and the club had two points deducted for fielding an unregistered player. He moved on to Swindon, captaining the side during their rise under Lou Macari and Ossie Ardiles.
Calderwood followed Ardiles to Spurs but was about to re-unite with Macari at Celtic last May before the latter was sacked. Early this season he agreed to return to Swindon on loan until John Gorman was also dismissed. He has now established a partnership with Gary Mabbutt. "Gerry Francis has turned everything round, for myself and the club," he said. "But this was the last thing I expected."
The presence of only three forwards in the 18-man party is a sign of slender resources rather than undue negativity. The fact that Duncan Ferguson is one of the trio - when he is suspended and facing a court case relating to the alleged butting of an opponent - may raise eyebrows. But Brown could not afford an attack of conscience for a match which, after a home draw with Russia and defeat in Greece, Scotland hardly dare lose.
The game's importance was underlined by Brown's refusal to allow John McGinlay to play for Bolton on Saturday rather than train with the Scots. In the circumstances, Brown will be anxious that Jim Leighton does not go down with the gastric flu currently afflicting Calderwood or pick up an injury.
Leighton, 36, is back as first-choice goalkeeper in the absence of the injured Andy Goram. His understudy, Nicky Walker, has just one cap, with back-up coming from Steve Woods, once of Clydebank and Preston, who joins Calderwood, Brian Martin and Darren Jackson in an uncapped quartet.
SCOTLAND SQUAD (European Championship Group Eight v Russia, Moscow, 29 March): Leighton (Hibernian), Walker (Partick), Woods (Motherwell); Boyd (Celtic), Calderwood (Tottenham), Collins (Celtic), Ferguson (Everton), Hendry (Blackburn), Jackson (Hibernian), Levein (Hearts), McAllister (Leeds), McCall (Rangers), McGinlay (Bolton), McKimmie (Aberdeen), McLaren (Rangers), McStay (Celtic), Martin (Motherwell), Wright (Aberdeen).Reuse content