09 Feb Steven Caulker is happy letting his football do the talking at Dundee
Dundee manager Neil McCann promised new signing Steven Caulker he could talk to him about anything – but football has been the only subject so far.
The former England, Tottenham and Liverpool defender signed an 18-month contract with Dundee on Thursday after leaving QPR in late December.
The 26-year-old – who scored on his only international appearance in 2012 – opened up last summer about his struggles with mental illness as well as gambling and alcohol problems.
But McCann persuaded him to join Dundee – and turn down “crazy money” elsewhere – after offering him a platform to let his football do the talking.
“I’m not interested in speaking about the past,” the Dens Park boss said. “What I want Steven to know is that I’m here as a manager, as a friend, as a sounding board for anything he wants to talk about.
“I’ve not had one conversation with Steven about anything that’s gone on in the past. The only conversations I have had with him are about football, and that’s the ones he looks as if he is most happy speaking about.
“That’s what I promised him here: football, getting back to being a footballer, getting back in an environment where he feels he belongs somewhere.
“I have given him that and I am so happy he’s taken it because he could have gone elsewhere. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff he could have earned for himself. But that’s a mark of the man, that he is just concentrating on football.”
Caulker highlighted the chance to work with a “caring and understanding” boss as key to his Dens Park move.
McCann said: “I remember Sir Alex Ferguson saying that you have to be almost like a friend, like a psychologist, because every player has a different make-up and can come in with different problems, whether it’s something so mundane that happened the night before.
“And you have to be able to look at a player and think ‘is there something up with him today?’ and pull him aside.
“But you have to be very open. It’s not just all about tactics and knowing the game. You have to be able to know your players.
“You are not just a head coach, you have to manage. Everybody gets that service, it’s not just Steven that’s walked in the door.”
Caulker has not played competitively since late September and has only trained two days with his new team-mates but McCann did not rule out the prospect of him making a debut against Motherwell in Saturday’s William Hill Scottish Cup tie at Dens Park.
“I wouldn’t look at him in training and think he is off it in any shape or form,” McCann said. “But he has to feel he is ready. You don’t hang someone out to dry.
“We’ll talk and if he feels he’s ready, and I feel he’s ready, he’ll be involved.
“I don’t expect him to hit top level for a few weeks, he says that himself. I’m not putting that pressure on him and neither should our fans.
“I think he should be revered for taking the choice to come here because he could have earned some crazy money elsewhere.”