Gary Caldwell remembers Wigan Athletic's last derby day triumph - a decade on

It’s almost 10 years since Wigan Athletic returned from Horwich with the derby bragging rights over Bolton Wanderers.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 10:48 am
Gary Caldwell heads past Adam Bogdan to give Latics the lead at Bolton in February 2012

February 2012: Wanderers 1 Latics 2.

So much has happened in the last decade – on and off the pitch - for both sides.

And yet for Gary Caldwell, Latics skipper that day and scorer of the opening goal, it seems like yesterday.

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“It was the 15th anniversary the other day of my goal for Scotland against France,” Caldwell reminisced.

“I thought that was bad enough...but when I’m reminded the goal for Wigan at Bolton was 10 years, it honestly feels like yesterday!”

Like any centre-back, he can remember all his goals in fine detail, this one being a bullet header from Jean Beausejour’s inviting corner.

“I remember the goal very well,” said Caldwell. “Jean sent over the cross and I think it was David Wheater who was marking me.

“He didn’t pick up the flight of the ball, I did very early, and sometimes with goals like that, you just know you’re going to score.

“You see the flight of the ball so early, and you know you’re getting your head on it.

“Then it’s just a case of getting a good contact, and making sure you hit the target.

“You’re that close, unless you head it straight at him, the keeper doesn’t have a chance of saving it.

"The only downside was it came at the wrong end, it was too far to run back to celebrate with the Wigan fans!

“I only made it to halfway, it was too much to make it all the way back to the Latics end.

“Jamesey scored at the right end in the second half, so he managed to celebrate right in front of them.”

After Mark Davies had levelled for Bolton, James McArthur stabbed the ball home in the second half to secure a famous victory against the old enemy.

“They’re the best ones to win and the worst ones to lose – without a doubt,” acknowledged Caldwell.

“I’ve played in the biggest derby in the world, for me – the Old Firm in Glasgow – and that was a scary game to be part of.

"But the Wigan-Bolton one was massive in its own right, as soon as you get to the club you’re made aware of its importance to the fans.

“Whichever club you’re at, the rivalry with the nearest club to your own is always the biggest one, and we knew what was at stake.

“You’re only ever playing for three points, but of course there’s always that added significance attached.”

It wasn’t just bragging rights, with Roberto Martinez’s men using the victory as a springboard for a remarkable finish to the campaign which saw them beat Manchester United, Arsenal and

Liverpool on the way to securing an eighth campaign of top-flight football.

“The team then, it was flying...playing three at the back, before anyone else was playing three at the back over here,” said Caldwell.

“It had gone totally out of fashion, but Roberto was certainly the manager who brought it back to the UK.

“I remember us doing a lot of work on it for a long, long time – pretty much as soon as I came to the club (in January 2010).

“We were doing training sessions with three at the back, without actually playing it.

“He was planting the seed for much further down the line, and that’s obviously how it turned out.

“The lads used to always joke that I was the guy in the middle of the three, so I didn’t need to do any running.

"Any running I did was because someone hadn’t done their job, and I used to tell them: Make sure I don’t do any running, and we’ll win some matches!

“But every part of that team, every single individual, knew their job, and not only that, their profile fitted exactly what that job required.

“Shaun (Maloney), Jean and Maynor (Figueroa) together must have been a nightmare for other teams to have to defend against, down or left-hand side.

“Shaun always had great timing, in being able to glide inside on his right foot, which allowed Jean to go outside.

“But that was only one part of the team, we had Victor (Moses) on the other side, who was more of an out and out winger, and Boycey provided him with the energy and stability behind which allowed him to do his job.

“Myself and Antolin (Alcaraz) were both comfortable on the ball, so we always dominated possession.

“The energy we had in midfield, with the two Jameses, was incredible, Jordi Gomez just provided that bit of quality when required, and Franco (di Santo) in that period was by far the most effective we saw him here.

“We had it down to such a fine art, and it was a great time to be involved with the football club.

“And any time we beat Bolton was always a good day – and that was a great day with what was at stake.”