Former skipper and manager ready for reunion with Wigan Athletic and old pal

Gary Caldwell admits there was only one fixture he was looking for when the League One schedule was released in the summer.
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When Wigan Athletic make the long trip to face Caldwell's Exeter City this weekend, it won't just be a reunion with the club he served with distinction as a player and manager.

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It'll also reunite him with Shaun Maloney, a trusted colleague during their playing days at - deep breath - Scotland Under-21s, Celtic, Scotland, Wigan and, finally last year, in the dug-out as the management team at Hibernian.

Shaun Maloney and Gary Caldwell's careers have dovetailed at both club and international levelShaun Maloney and Gary Caldwell's careers have dovetailed at both club and international level
Shaun Maloney and Gary Caldwell's careers have dovetailed at both club and international level
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"We can't get rid of each other,” laughed Caldwell. "But when the fixtures came out, obviously with Wigan being in the league - as much as I didn't want them to have dropped from the Championship - this was the first one I looked for.

"It's the club with which I spent the most amount of my playing career, and which gave me my first managerial job, so it's a special club to me.

"Also coming up against Shaun and Graham (Barrow), two of my closest friends in football, will add extra spice to it.

"I still speak to the guys very regularly, although not as much as I would like, because we're all always so busy.

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"I was at Graham's daughter's 40th birthday a couple of weeks ago, at Graham's house, and it was nice to see everyone again.

"Shaun lives in Alderley Edge, near my family home, and I saw him maybe six or even weeks ago, we went out for breakfast.

"There'll be no love lost for the game, but hopefully after the game it doesn't kick off too much, and we can share a beer or two."

Caldwell at least has back-up if it does 'kick off' in the form of ex-Latics midfielder David Perkins, now part of his backroom staff.

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"I think I can take Graham, it's Perks that could be struggling if he's in the firing line," the Scot smiled, before admitting great sympathy for Maloney's tough beginning to life as a manager.

"Yeah, I really feel for him, the start he's had in management," Caldwell acknowledged.

"I obviously had four months with him, at Hibernian, and it was an horrendous first job for him, in terms of what we were working with.

"The club and some of the people there at the time were wrong, and that made it a very difficult situation to manage.

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"It had nothing to do with him as a manager, or a coach, or how he tried to help the team, which I thought was excellent.

"Then he goes to Wigan, obviously back to a club he remained very close to after leaving, and it's been another really difficult period again.

"There's been so much going on behind the scenes, which can be challenging, but as a coach and a manager he will have learned a lot.

"He's fortunate enough to have Graham Barrow with him, who I had at Exeter - he stole him off me! - but he'll be a huge help during such difficult times.

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"Hopefully, for the club as well, they are coming through that now and he'll be able to thrive."

Not that Saturday's game is all about a reunion, with Latics having lost six of their last seven league games, and Exeter having dropped back into mid-table after topping the division a few weeks ago.

"It's a big game for both clubs in terms of the runs we've been on," added Caldwell.

"I think we both started very well and kind of fell away from that.

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"But it's a game both clubs will see as important to win, which makes it an even bigger game than usual.

"We're all competitive - me, Shaun and Graham - and we all know the importance of winning this one."

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