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'Beating Celtic was great but playing Rangers was even better'

By Will Clark

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Keeper Jim Calder was the last player to know Caley Thistle had been drawn against the team he had always supported.

The Grantown born and raised keeper, who kept a clean sheet in their Scottish Cup fourth round 1-0 win at Second Division Stenhousemuir, helped the Third Division club land a dream quarter final tie against Rangers in 1996.

It would become the biggest game in the club’s history at that time, despite it only being their second season in existence.

Jim Calder was first choice goalkeeper under Steve Paterson. Picture: Ken Macpherson
Jim Calder was first choice goalkeeper under Steve Paterson. Picture: Ken Macpherson

Four years later, he would be part of the Caley Thistle team that would go down in folklore winning 3-1 at Celtic in the Scottish Cup third round in 2000, arguably their greatest ever result.

However, looking back at his career, standing outside the dressing room at Ochil View hearing the news of the draw and going on to play against Rangers was Calder’s proudest moment as a player.

“I was a Rangers fan and we had just beat Stenhousemuir with Brian Thomson scoring the winning goal,” he recalled.

“I remember the excitement in the changing room waiting for the quarter final draw to take place.

“But when it was being made, I was being interviewed outside by a reporter from a national newspaper.

“While I speaking to him, all of a sudden there was an almighty roar that came from our changing room.

“When I got back in, it was then I heard we got Rangers in the Scottish Cup.

“The biggest result of my career was beating Celtic in the Scottish Cup third round.

“But getting Rangers in the Scottish Cup quarter final was the biggest moment for me in terms of the actual occasion.”

Telford Street Park was not deemed to meet the requirements of hosting the match which was forced to move to Dundee United’s ground at Tannadice.

Despite a valiant fight, Caley Thistle were no match for star-studded Rangers who secured their passage to the semifinal with a 3-0 victory, with Paul Gascoigne scoring twice and a Thomson own goal.

But Calder put in a terrific performance and was named man of the match by keeping the score line respectable.

Looking back, he said he would have preferred if the cup clash was in Glasgow.

But he was happy he had the chance to test himself against the likes of Gascoigne, Brian Laudrup, Ally McCoist and Peter Van Vossen.

“The only disappointment was not playing them at Ibrox,” he said.

“But I wasn’t disappointed we couldn’t play them at Inverness. For a guy from the countryside, getting to play at Tannadice was a big enough thrill.

“But we played well against Rangers and it was great I was named man of the match against them.

“I played at Tannadice twice in my career and I got man of the match both times I played there so it was a good place for me.

“You’d only get to see Rangers on the television and as a fan it was great I got to play against them.”

Calder played for Inverness Thistle for 10 years, helping them win the Highland League in 1987 before being part of the original Caley Thistle squad which entered the Third Division in 1994.

After leaving Caley Thistle in 2002, Calder, who lives
in Inverness, went on to
play for a number of Highland League clubs before retiring.

The 59-year-old says he doesn’t miss the game, preferring to do other things with time.

“I don’t go and watch football now. It’s bad enough to travel to play but I’m not one to go and watch.

“I did coach at Caley Thistle shortly after retiring from playing but it wasn’t for me. I’d rather go shopping with my wife than go and watch football.”

Calder’s family ran the Waterford Hotel – now converted into flats – in The Square for many years.

He played for Grantown FC until 1983 when he went on to play for Inverness Thistle in the Highland League.

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