Hibs kid Ross Caldwell could have been forgiven for believing he was jinxed after what promised to be the best week of his career ended in total frustration.
One match cancelled shortly before kick-off and another abandoned at half-time left the 18-year-old shaking his head in disbelief. But as disappointed as he was, the young striker at least has the consolation of knowing he’s already caught the eye of new Easter Road boss Pat Fenlon.
The Irishman had barely got through the front door of the Edinburgh outfit before he was telling Caldwell he’d be on from the start in the following day’s closed doors match against St Mirren rather than taking his usual place in the Under-19 side which was due to face Motherwell. The two games were due to start within an hour of each other at the club’s East Mains training centre but while the youngsters’ league clash was played to a finish, the “bounce” match against the Buddies was cancelled thanks to a waterlogged pitch.
Caldwell’s spirits were lifted, though, when he learned he’d not only be on the team coach for Friday night’s SPL game against Motherwell but would actually be taking a seat on the bench. Any hopes he harboured, however, of stepping from their and onto the pitch at Fir Park were dashed by that, by now, well-publicised electrical fire in one of the floodlight pylons which saw the game abandoned on safety grounds.
Today Caldwell admitted he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at his run of bad luck. He said: “I was told on Monday morning I’d be playing in the Tuesday bounce game rather than the Under-19s league match because the manager wanted to get a look at me.
“It was a great feeling. I’d played in bounce games before but the difference was that this time I’d be on from the start rather than coming off the bench. I was to play upfront alongside Akpo Sodje and was really looking forward to it because I want to make the step up sooner rather than later. But the conditions were horrendous, the pitch was waterlogged and unplayable while the weather was just getting worse and worse.”
So desperate was he for a piece of the action, Caldwell went asking if he could play the second half of the youngsters’ match only to be denied that chance by red tape. “I was told that as the team sheets were already in and I wasn’t named on it I couldn’t play so I just had to settle for watching and supporting the boys.”
Caldwell’s disappointment was short-lived, though, when Fenlon called him into his office on the Thursday morning and told him he’d be among his substitutes for his first match in charge the following evening in Lanarkshire.
He said: “The new manager seems to have taken a wee shine to me for some reason which is great although I am sure he’s had a word with a few people around the training ground about me. Even so, I was surprised. I thought the manager would probably take a couple of weeks to get round the first team and then have a look at the Under-19s but here he was wanting a closer look at me within no time at all.
“I’d been on the bench before for the first team, up at Inverness earlier in the season when both Akpo and Junior Agogo were injured which was a great experience. But this time I felt I was getting my place on merit.
“I was hoping I might get a few minutes towards the end of the game if everything was going well for us.
“When Garry O’Connor scored and we were still leading at half-time I had my fingers crossed we’d get another one which would help my chances as I felt we were looking quite comfortable at that stage.
“It was looking good, we had a good support through, our fans were noisy, Garry had scored a great goal and we were thinking we might get some points on the board and break the run we have been on.
“I was out warming up at half-time and that seemed to be dragging on for ages before we heard on the tannoy there would be an extra five minutes. Then we saw smoke coming from the stand and it was announced the game was being abandoned. I couldn’t believe it. There was a bit of confusion and I think the manager was still giving his half-time talk unaware of what was going on initially.
“It was all very frustrating, especially for me having had the game cancelled earlier in the week when all I want to do is play as much as I can.”
Caldwell got that opportunity the following day back at the training centre as coach James McDonaugh’s side stretched their unbeaten run to eight matches with a 3-0 win over Inverness Caley.
He said: “I’d been told that depending on what happened on Friday night I’d play for the Under-19s the next day. It was great to make it eight games unbeaten, seven wins and a draw.”
The young Hibees will be hoping to extend that record even further when they face St Mirren in the last 16 of the SFA Youth Cup on Sunday, two of Caldwell’s ten goals having come as they knocked Capital rivals Hearts out of the competition in the previous round.
Twenty four hours earlier, of course, Fenlon’s side play Rangers in what will be the manager’s first game at Easter Road and again Caldwell hopes he’ll be involved.
He said: “Nothing has been said as yet. I’ll just train hard again this week and see what happens. It would be great to be part of it but that’s up to the manager.
“Hopefully even if I am part of it all on Saturday I’ll be able to play the following day. The Under-19 side are going well, we are second in the league, still in the cup and scoring a lot of goals. We’ve had 11 different scorers so far, we’re the top scorers in the league and we’ve had a fair number of clean sheets.
“Obviously, though, the aim for all of us is to move up to the first team, that’s the ultimate goal, one we are all pursuing.”