KEEP calm and carry on. The phrase that launched a million tea-towels and aprons could well be the motto of the Cadden family. No matter what has come the way of his talented and dedicated footballing sons, Chris of Motherwell and Nicky of Livingston, it has been the message passed down by father Steve to these twin prospects making their way in the game ever since he coached them at Mossend Boys’ Club.
It is a mantra that has served Cadden senior well since his own football career fell by the wayside, his retirement from Albion Rovers instigated by a serious knee injury at the age of 26, and sealed with the arrival of his sons at 27.
In the 21 years since, Steve has watched on as his boys have become men, guiding them as they made the breakthrough into full-time senior football. Unlike the many red-faced dads making a spectacle of themselves at the side of most youth matches though, there is no sense Stevie set out to vicariously live the career he felt robbed of through the achievements of his sons. Quite the opposite.
“The one thing my dad never did was force us towards football,” said Chris, one of Scottish football’s hottest prospects and an Under-21 internationalist. “Myself and Nicky just really enjoyed it.
“Obviously because dad used to play football and showed you all the old pictures of him in action, you were always geared towards that path. But he never brought us up wanting us to be football players, and he always made sure we stuck in at school, that was the most important thing.
“When it came to work experience for instance, there was a few people at school did it at Fir Park, but we never. He had us doing other things and made sure we got all of our grades. Football was just a hobby we really enjoyed.”
And with the greatest of respect to the Wee Rovers, it was unlikely the junior Caddens would grow up with a burning desire to emulate their dad’s feats at Cliftonhill. Even though, Chris proudly says, he did go on to help Rovers to their first league title in 26 years – when his dad was in the team – when on loan three years ago.
“We never really got the chance to see him, but he’s showed us all the old videos and pictures of the Rovers when he was playing, so we’ve seen him in a football strip a few times,” he said.
Father Steve’s presence in Chris and Nicky’s footballing development since the age of nine back with Mossend has been crucial, and yet, he has tried to stay in the background, preferring to be a sounding board rather than leading his sons down any particular path.
“When I got picked up by Motherwell it was by Chris McCart, who knew dad because he played at Motherwell with him,” said Chris. “My dad was always going to be there at training with us anyway, so he asked him to come along and do a bit of coaching, and he ended up being my coach up until about under-14s.
“He was always good. You would think that he would favour me and Nicky, but if anything, it worked the other way and went against us, because dad didn’t want that to happen.
“At under-15s he left us to it, because it was a big jump then to under-17s, and he didn’t want to be the one to be judging us. He wanted that to fall to someone else.
“It’s been brilliant for me and Nicky to get his advice, and it’s really helped us along the way. After every game, some kids go home to their parents and, no disrespect, but their dads might have never kicked a ball in their lives.
“He knew a lot about it, so he was always giving us tips. You would never have a perfect game. You could score three in a match and he would still have things to criticise you about. But he was great in that respect, because he knew what he was talking about, and we took on board what he said.”
The influence that each of the boys had on one another can’t be underestimated either. Brothers can of course be notoriously competitive in normal circumstances, but being twins only intensified that rivalry for the precocious Caddens.
“Even in school at PE or playing Fifa when we were younger, I always wanted to beat Nicky and he always wanted to beat me,” Chris laughed. “It was healthy, we’ve never come to blows over it. It’s just wee things, if we went up to play nine holes of golf with my dad we would want to beat each other, and that’s been a good thing.
“We are supporting each other too. Nicky has done brilliant to go from being part-time to full-time, and all the boys there have been saying how hard it is to do that, so he’s really worked hard to earn that and he’s doing well. It’s great to see.
“If he gets beat, I just feel it as much as he or my dad would. If he has a bad result or a bad performance, then I’m gutted for him, I really want him to do well. The three of us just sort of drive each other on, and take the highs and the lows.
“When I got my first goal at Dundee, my dad, my uncle Tom and Nicky were all there and I think they ended up about three rows down. They went absolutely mental. Dad tries to hold back whenever he’s in the crowd, but sometimes he loses it now and again.
“After the semi-final win over Rangers too, there were no two happier people in the world than my dad and Nicky.”
Both Chris and Nicky still live at home, and despite the supportive atmosphere, it isn’t always sweetness and light. Particularly on Saturday nights if Motherwell and Livingston haven’t fared so well during the afternoon.
“Jesus, it’s unspeakable,” Chris said. “We all just go to our rooms and stop talking to each other. It’s a lot better when we both win.
“Dad seems happy that we’re still at home. He might well want us to shift on, but we’re still there.
“It’s brilliant, because you go home on a Saturday night and Nicky comes in about the same time, you have dinner and talk about your game. I think it’s healthy, because you talk about how you have done, what things you could improve upon.”
With the footballing world at their talented feet, there is no telling what the future may hold for the Cadden brothers.
Since making his breakthrough into the Motherwell first team, Chris has attracted interest from clubs such as Hearts and Cardiff City, earned international recognition with Scotland Under-21s, and been regularly lauded as one of the country’s brightest young talents. But one thing dad Stevie will not allow, is for any of it to go to his son’s head.
“He’s kept my feet on the ground, don’t worry about that,” he said. “He knows exactly what I need after a game. He knows when to have a wee bit of a go at me, and he knows when to put the arm around me.
“My mum has been brilliant too for both me and Nicky. She’d drive us to training with Mossend when we were younger, and you don’t realise the commitment at the time, hanging about for hours when we were 10 years old and just kicking a ball about.
“If you ask Nicky as well, the two of us wouldn’t be where we are if it wasn’t for them. They have been absolutely brilliant.”