FOR most football fans, the European Championships was a Godsend to wile away the few weeks before Olympic fever took over the nation.
Gary Caldwell, however, barely noticed they were taking place.
After a long, hard campaign that saw Latics pull off the latest in a long line of Great Escapes, Caldwell just wanted to forget all about football and relax.
It was no surprise really.
Because no one did more than the skipper to steer Latics away from the relegation zone – a fact that was acknowledged at the end-of-season awards when he was named Player of the Year.
But the Scotland international admits it left him all football-ed out come the end of the campaign.
“I actually never even watched a full game of the Euros – which is probably a bit sad to say in my position,” he told the Observer.
“I watched bits of games here and there but just being with the family, going away and stuff.
“It was difficult to get too involved, I must say.
“The main priority was to switch off, recharge the batteries, and come back raring to go again – which was the case.”
During his down-time, Caldwell admits he did keep his ear to the ground as Roberto Martinez was linked with seemingly every available managerial vacancy under the sun.
But the former Celtic man admits he wasn’t surprised by his manager’s decision to stay at the DW Stadium.
“It was obviously a worrying time when he was linked with Liverpool, but I think it’s also a very encouraging sign for the football club when our players and management are being linked with other clubs,” Caldwell recognised.
“That must mean that we’re doing something right.
“It’s great that he’s staying, and we obviously need the rest of the squad to follow suit if we want to take this club forward to the next level.
“There have been two or three new players coming in over the summer and, if we can all bond together as a squad, the sky is the limit.”
Team spirit was a vital component in Latics retaining their top-flight status last year when most experts had written them off by the turn of the year.
And Caldwell reckons week-long training camps in Sweden and Austria during the off-season will only help cement the understanding between the players both on and off the pitch.
“It’s something the gaffer has always done since he’s been here, and it’s great for the lads in terms of preparation for the new season,” he added.
“We’ve been getting through tough sessions every day, very hard work indeed, but there’s also time for the lads to bond as a squad which you also need.
“We went out together for meals and enjoyed each other’s company, which was in some ways as important and the work we were doing on the field.
“Getting the squad together on and off the field is vitally important if you’re going to do anything as a squad, and it is sometimes difficult when you’ve got as many different nationalities and cultures as we have.
“But I think we’re finally getting there, everyone is buying into what we’re trying to do, and it’s great to see.
“We are a strong unit, we have a great laugh together, there is a great friendship within the squad and that’s something that can only be increased with a training camp abroad.
“It’s important to see people away from the field, see how they live, and it’s important we understand how each other goes about our business.”