Aidan McCaffery began his career as an apprentice with Newcastle United and went on to captain the England Youth side. He turned professional in January 1974 and made his league debut against Ipswich Town in March 1975. After 59 league games for the Magpies, scoring four goals, he moved to Derby County in August 1978 for a fee of £60,000, making his Rams' debut on 15 September in a 3–2 win against West Bromwich Albion at the Baseball Ground.
In August 1980, he moved to Bristol Rovers for a fee of £70,000, having scored four times in 37 games for Derby. He was loaned by Rovers to their local rivals Bristol City in February 1982, but returned to Rovers, playing 184 times and scoring 11 goals in five seasons.
In March 1985 he joined Torquay United on loan and in July that year moved to Exeter City on a free transfer. His Grecians debut came in a 1-0 win at St James’ Park against Port Vale in August 1985.
He was then transferred to Hartlepool United for a fee of £3,000 in February 1987. However, he was released after only six games and signed for Whitley Bay.
Aidan was appointed youth coach at Carlisle United in January 1988. He played 14 times for the Cumbrians that season before retiring to concentrate on his coaching duties under manager Clive Middlemass. When Middlemass was sacked in April 1991, Aidan took over as manager, Carlisle ending the season in 20th place in the Fourth Division.
The following season saw Carlisle struggle financially and finish bottom of the league, only saved from relegation to the Football Conference by the unfortunate demise of Aldershot. A new owner, Michael Knighton, took over the club the following summer and McCaffery left in September 1992, having expressed doubts about Knighton's plans.
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