Big brother Steven is still on a Cup high, raves Gary Caldwell

Life is sweet right now for the Caldwell brothers. Nine straight wins in the SPL for one, a key part in the humbling of mighty Chelsea for the other. A week, indeed, for this footballing family to remember.

After Gary helped Celtic open a four-point gap over Rangers with Wednesday night's triumph against Kilmarnock, he watched in wonder as Burnley sent the multi-millionaires of Chelsea spinning out of the Carling Cup.

Sibling Steven had been heroic at the heart of Owen Coyle's defence, yet missed the drama of the deciding penalty shoot-out after collecting a second yellow card late in extra-time. Nineteen months younger, Gary's stellar trajectory over the course of a hugely impressive 2008 for both club and country had left his older brother firmly in the shade.


Brothers Gary (right) and Steven Caldwell are both having eventful seasons

Yet he was thrilled to see Steven, two years his elder, enjoy an evening in the limelight and firmly believes more will soon follow.

A reunion within the Scotland squad is something the Parkhead centre-back believes should be almost inevitable as Burnley compete for promotion to the promised land of England's Premier League.

A bet was once made between the pair - both with Newcastle United as youngsters - about who would end up with the most caps. Gary has streaked well ahead in that contest - with 30 Scotland appearances compared to Steven's nine, the last of which came in March 2006.

That sibling rivalry has now mellowed into a mutual support network, with advice traded as regularly as the inevitable jokes and put-downs.

'Oh, he's miles behind now,' said Gary with a smile, when asked about the caps wager. 'It's something we talked about when we first came into the squad, one being ahead of the other. I think I could be winning that bet - hopefully, anyway.

'We were competitive when we were younger. Now it's more about support. We help each other and talk to each other about football, little bits about each other's games. It would be good if we were both in the Scotland squad again. We played together once under Berti Vogts and came on i n matches a couple of times when Walter Smith was in charge.

NOVEMBER 04: Gary Caldwell of Celtic and train at the Lennoxtown training ground ahead of their

Gary limbers up with the Celtic squad

'Steven has been playing well with Burnley. George Burley will know about that and, if he keeps doing well, I'm sure he'll get in. 'The Championship is a very difficult and competitive league.

Steven is captain of a club that is doing really well, so he must be knocking on the door.'

The younger Caldwell has become used to enjoying the glamour of Champions League evenings and Old Firm contests, but feels a touch of the high life could soon be extended in the family.

He is confident Burnley can push strongly for a place among England's moneyed elite after their historic victory in midweek.

urnley's Steven Caldwell and Chelsea's Didier Drogba end in a tangle on the floor during the Carling Cup Fourth Round match at Stamford Bridge, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION

Steven clashes with Didier Drogba at Stamford Bridge on a night to forget for both players

'I was watching the penalties in the players' lounge after the Kilmarnock game and I saw that Steven had been sent off,' said Gary. 'I spoke to him later and he told me it was a great game and, obviously, a fantastic result.

'It's a big tie for them now in the quarter-finals. I hope they get Manchester United because he had been telling me everything I had been doing wrong against them in the Champions League. We'll see how well he does!

'Burnley had a really bad start to the season and people were asking questions but, since then, they've been on fire. They are fifth in the Championship and I don't think there is anything to hinder them going up if they get on a run. Hull have done it, Stoke have done it, so I don't see any reason why Burnley can't.'

More pertinent to Gary, however, is the run Celtic are currently enjoying. A surge of victories since losing the August 31 Old Firm game has placed Gordon Strachan's side in a positive SPL position, with tomorrow's visit to bottom-placed Hamilton offering the chance of 10 wins on the trot.

It has all been achieved against a backdrop of widespread injuries, with Caldwell providing an insight into the mentality that has driven forward the patched-up Parkhead squad.

erbatov (L)  tries a shot past Celtic player Gary Caldwell during the Champions League match between Celtic Glasgow and Manchester United at Celtic Park, Glasgow, Sco

Gary played against Manchester United in Celtic's recent Champions League clash at Parkhead

'When you are on a run, it's because of your attitude and determination to keep winning,' he said. 'It's something you have to do at this club. You must be singleminded going into every game and believe you are not going to slip up.

'Everyone will say Sunday is a tricky game because we are playing the team bottom of the league and some might think it would be difficult to be motivated.

'But we have a group of players who motivate each other and themselves. We've shown that over the past nine games. Since I've been here, we have won three league titles under Gordon Strachan. We know what it takes to win and we have the belief when the chips are down. When injuries and other things are against us, we seem to keep coming back.

'It's all credit to the players and staff that we can do that. But you have to keep doing it. It's not good enough winning one title, two or three - you have to keep doing it.

'We have got ourselves in front and it's hard to be chasing - we found that out last year. We want to maintain our lead and, to do that, we must maintain our work-rate.'

Previously targeted by jeers from discontented fans at Parkhead, Caldwell is now surely the leading contender for Celtic's best player over the course of 2008.

The improvement in his own form and consistency is, he insisted, not down to any magic formula.

teven Caldwell of Burnley celebrates victory during the Carling Cup Fourth Round match between Chelsea

Steven  celebrates with his Burnley team-mates on a famous Cup night at Stamford Bridge

'It's about hard work,' he said. 'It's pretty boring when you say it, but it's true. When you get older, you understand the game more. I think that has helped me. So has being here at Celtic, which brings you on as a footballer. All of that has made me become better and I think I can be better still.

'My youth team coach at Newcastle always used to tell me that centrebacks don't hit their peak until their late 20s. I think that's proving the case. You should always strive to improve every day.'

Not a bad family motto, that.