Paul Caddis: I feared Gordon Strachan – now he’s capped me

Paul Caddis was at Celtic under Strachan before heading south
Paul Caddis was at Celtic under Strachan before heading south
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There was a time Paul Caddis lived in fear of Gordon Strachan, the Celtic boss constantly on his back as the teenager sought to establish himself as a first-team player at the club he had always supported.

Today, some nine years on, Caddis looks back on those days not in anger but with an appreciation that everything Strachan did way back then was only done in the best interests of the youngster.

And now it has paid off, 27-year-old Caddis winning his first Scotland cap under his one-time Celtic manager, those four minutes in Prague as he replaced matchwinner Ikechi Anya his reward for cutting his ties with the Glasgow club and heading south.

Initially Caddis looked destined for the top at Celtic Park, a debut at 19 quickly followed by a Champions League baptism of fire against Spanish giants Barcelona in February 2008 against when the right back was charged with keeping Ronaldhino quiet in a team that included Thierry Henry, Lionel Messi and Deco.

But after Strachan departed, Caddis found himself in and out of Tony Mowbray’s plans, a situation which made him depart for Swindon and subsequently Birmingham City.

He said: “I’ll always remember that night against Barcelona, the closest I’d ever got to these guys before that night was on the PlayStation. So to be able to do that was incredible, I’m not a nervous guy, I never get nervous at football games and I knew that night if I was terrible people would stick up for me, the young age, the inexperience, I had nothing to lose.”

Although he obviously rated Caddis, Strachan farmed him out on loan to Dundee United, the player recalling: “It always stuck with me, him telling me to go and get a personality in football. I don’t think he meant as a man, but as a footballer, to go and be somebody and I did that under Craig Levein at Tannadice.

“At that time, I’m not going to lie, I was terrified of him – him and Gary Pendrey [Strachan’s assistant]. The manager was always quite tough on me, not picking on me, not hammering me, but it was do this, do this, do this. As a young lad training with the first team you are a bit intimidated but I’d rather he had done that than not know who I was.

“He wouldn’t have thrown anyone in, he trusted me and has given me a cap so I owe a lot to him.”

Being open and honest, Caddis admitted he thought his dream of playing for Scotland would never materialise. He said: “It got to the stage where I was a Celtic fan, I loved being at the club, but I had to start being a footballer, I wanted to play football, I didn’t want to be one of those guys who is 24 and has played only 15 or 20 games.

“I decided to push on. Celtic let me go without too much hassle. I went to Swindon, was relegated the first season and won the league the next before moving on to Birmingham.”

And it has been his performances at St Andrew’s where Caddis believes Birmingham have been punching above their weight under boss Gary Rowett despite off-field problems and where he has again caught the eye of Strachan and Pendrey who lives in the area and frequently attends matches.

He said: “It’s a massive club and since Gary Rowett came in we’ve started getting the fans back into the stadium. We’ve done well this season, we’ve over achieved considering the budgets that are in our league.

“I think it was Harry Redknapp who said a couple of years ago that it is the only league in the world where there’s between 12 and 15 teams at the start of the season who really think they can go up.

“But there’s only six places, the top two and then four play-off places. We’re six points off with a game in hand so we are still there or thereabouts with nine games to go. At the start of the season we’d have snapped your hand off for that because the last few years we’ve been fighting relegation.

“I think it helps that Gordon Strachan’s close friend Gary Pendrey comes to every game, he’s someone he trusts to pass on his opinion.

“However, I’ll be 28 next month and I never thought it [Scotland] would come. But I spoke to Gordon Greer who told me he got his first cap at 32 so hopefully there will be more to come.”

Caddis, however, doesn’t expect to walk straight into Strachan’s team. The Scotland boss is taking the opportunity in the two friendlies against the Czech Republic and tomorrow night’s fixture with Denmark to cast an eye over a number of hopefuls.

“It’s small steps,” insisted Caddis, “Getting into every squad that’s announced and after that being on the bench and then getting into the team. I cannot expect to go straight into the national team, it’s a case of working hard at my club and hopefully when the squad announcements come round I will make it.”

And Caddis believes the victory over the Czech Republic who are bound for this summer’s European Championships in France is an indication of the upturn in Scotland’s fortunes since Strachan took over even if their own Euro campaign ended in failure.

He said: “I think since the manager came in we have that wee spark and fans want to come to games.

“We did well, defended well, scored on the counter and I think we opened a few eyes. We are a good team with a lot of experienced players.”