Former Rangers and Scotland captain

Born: 14 May 14, 1934

Died: 4 March 4, 2019

ERIC Caldow, who has died aged 84, was one of the greatest Scottish football full-backs and captains. How good was Caldow? Alex “Chiefy” Cameron, the highly regarded sports writer, told a story about chiding Jimmy Johnstone of Celtic, that wee Jinky had never got past Caldow in his life. “Aye I did, once,” replied Jinky. “But, I was driving my Jaguar and Eric was walking, but, I never could get past him on the field”.

READ MORE: Every Picture Tells A Story: A look back at the life and career of Rangers and Scotland great Eric Caldow 

Caldow was born in Cumnock in Ayrshire; Eric's dad was an insurance agent. He was an average player at school, in fact, it was suggested that he was “slow”. At the time he had a Saturday morning job as a delivery boy for local butchers Blackwood and Veitch, so, he decided to use his wages to buy spikes.

He then set about doing sprint training, with the result, during his senior career he was reckoned to be the fastest full-back in the game.

Leaving school, he obtained a job as an apprentice painter with Cumnock Burgh Council, while playing football for the local Glenpark Amateurs, then Muirkirk Juniors in the Western Junior League.

He had been on Rangers' radar since his school days. Bill Struth eventually signed him in 1952 and he was immensely proud to be known as “the last of Bill's boys” and throughout his life he was always immaculately turned-out, as Struth insisted his players be. He made the first of his 463 first-team appearances in a league cup tie, against Ayr United, at Ibrox on 12 September, 1953. Gradually however, Caldow got more and more games and when Young was moved to centre-half, following Willie Woodburn's sine die suspension, Caldow became a first-team regular. In 1955 he was selected for the first Scotland Under-23 team and, after more experience with the Scottish League XI, in 1957, he was named at right-back for the bi-annual visit to Wembley.

This disappointed Caldow. He dearly wanted to play left-back at Wembley, to pit his wits against the great Sir Stanley Matthews. Legend has it, he faced Matthews once during the match, and won the ball.

His second cap was in a World Cup qualifier against Spain, at Hampden, where his immediate opponent was the great Francisco Gento of Real Madrid, reckoned to be the fastest winger in the world – Caldow did not give him a kick at the ball as Scotland won the game.

HeraldScotland: Caldow, right, with Davie WilsonCaldow, right, with Davie Wilson Some have tried to label Caldow as the first over-lapping full-back. The man himself would poo-poo this, saying: “At Rangers, I had Jim Baxter, Ralph Brand and Davie Wilson in front of me, they didn't need me charging forward, I'd just have got in the way, so, I concentrated on defending.”

The respect was mutual, Baxter said: “One of the reasons for me being rated the best left-half in the world was the fact I had Caldow – the best left-back in the world – playing behind me.”

READ MORE: Former Rangers captain and Scottish football legend Eric Caldow dies 

Once in the national team, he was a Scotland regular, going on to win 40 caps. From his first cap to his last, he only missed two internationals. He was an ever-present during the qualifying stages for the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden, and one of just five ever-presents over the three games in the final tournament proper. He also led Scotland in the unsuccessful 1962 World Cup qualifying campaign

On the occasion of his 26th cap, against Wales, in Cardiff, on 22 October, 1960, Caldow was appointed Scotland captain, having succeeded Ian McColl as Rangers' captain the previous season. The match finished in a 2-0 win for Wales, one of just five defeats Caldow suffered in his 15 games as Scotland captain.

That run, indeed his international career was brought to an end just five minutes into his 40th cap, when he sustained a broken leg in a challenge from England centre forward Bobby Smith of Tottenham. Caldow was carried off and in those days before substitutes, club-mate Davie Wilson went to left-back to play the game of his life, while Jim Baxter scored both goals in a marvellous 2-1 win for Scotland, who had thus beaten England in successive internationals for the first time since 1938.

Caldow had succeeded the great Johnny Hubbard as Rangers' regular penalty taker, and he scored four goals, all from the spot, for his country. The most important of these had come in the 1962 game against England at Hampden where, in front of 132,431 fans, his 88th minute penalty goal clinched Scotland's first home win over the Auld Enemy since 1937.

His recovery from his broken leg took some time, and his long-time reserve Davie Provan established himself in the first team. But, when Provan in turn was injured, he came back to show that, if time and injury had diluted his speed, he could still keep young wingers in-check. His marshalling of Johnstone down a blind alley, before taking the ball off him, during the 1965 League Cup final, was a master-class in how to subdue a tricky winger.

HeraldScotland: The end of his Rangers' career came in 1966. By then, he had opened a pub in Hamilton, so turning part-time with Stirling Albion was not much of a hardship. He spent one season with Albion, before his final active playing role, a season as player-manager with Corby Town in English non-league football.

He had a record he was extremely proud of – he never had his name taken (no red or yellow cards back then) during his 14-year senior career. He won five League Championship medals, three Scottish Cup-winner's ones and also three League Cup-winner's medals. He also made 24 appearances for the Scottish League XI and captained the Rangers' side which reached the inaugural European Cup-Winners Cup final in 1961, losing out to Fiorentina.

Returning to Scotland, he had a spell back in the Ayrshire juniors, managing Hurlford United, and home-town team Cumnock, plus a spell managing Stranraer. He then settled into life as a representative with a building supplies company, enjoying golf, bowls and snooker back home in Ayrshire.

He had a difficult relationship with Scot Symon, who had succeeded Struth as Rangers' boss in 1954. There were times when Symon would leave Caldow out of the side and, he nearly left Rangers in the late 1950s, after Manchester United offered a rumoured £75,000 for his signature, as they rebuilt following the Munich Air Crash. But, he couldn't leave his first club and later returned there as a popular Match Day Host in the corporate hospitality area of Ibrox.

Indeed, so-popular was he there, a testimonial match was arranged to mark his service on and off the field to the club. He was also inducted into both the Rangers and Scottish Football Halls of Fame.

Eric had a long and happy marriage to Laura, from the north-east of England, who, sadly pre-deceased him. This was a massive blow to Eric, who was by then showing early signs of Alzheimers, which eventually led to him having to go into a specialist nursing home.

He also lost his son Eric Junior in a car crash, but, he is survived by daughter Jacqueline and her children.

MATT VALLANCE