A couple of months ago, here on Lost Boyos we told the story of a young footballer that had battle his way through the tough realm of the world of youth football to make a success of his early career in Scotland. There is still a long way to go for Hibernian’s young Welsh goalkeeper, Calum Antell, but his career is very much going in the right direction and he now finds himself Hibernian’s number 2 goalkeeper after featuring on the bench for all of Hibs’ SPL games; Calum is still only 20 years old. Calum has also featured for the club’s U20 team and in a recent game against Motherwell’s U20s, he delivered a man of the match performance and saved 2 penalties.
Calum spent time on loan at Scottish Third Division club East Stirlingshire last season and earned himself the Fans’ and Players’ Player of the Season awards. East Stirling’s chairman has spoke glowingly of Calum in a recent interview by saying:
“East Stirlingshire and Alex Ferguson are always linked as people talk about him starting his managerial career here and I reckon that it will be the same for Calum. He will go on to great things in his career and people will be able to say they first saw him play at senior level here.”
High praise indeed.
Now, Calum (who hails from Ebbw Vale) tells Lost Boyos about his time in Scotland and his career so far.
First of all, congratulations on earning a new contract at Hibernian – how have you found your first year living away in Scotland?
It was great to be offered a new contract with Hibs; having spent the last two years with the Edinburgh club I feel settled in my environment both on and off the field. It was a big decision to move to Scotland and very hard at times, but over the course of the last two years I’ve really enjoyed the experience, playing a good standard of football and also making really good friends. Having a great goalkeeping coach in Scott Thompson also helps – it’s good to develop a strong bond with the goalkeeping coach.
How has it been working with ex-Manchester United goalkeeper, Ben Williams?
I’ve been lucky to work with quite a few keepers in the past and they have all had stories to tell. At Swindon I worked firstly with Phil Smith and Peter Brezovan, and then David Lucas arrived from Leeds. When I arrived at Hibs there was Graham Stack, Mark Brown, Graham Smith and Thomas Flynn and most of them had previous history with big clubs. You had Stacky ex-Arsenal/Wolves and Mark Brown ex Rangers/Celtic, all massive clubs in England and Scotland. Now Ben Williams has arrived ex-Manchester United; he has great stories to tell of his time at United playing alongside Fabien Barthez in the Champions League!
Did you find it difficult moving all the way up to Edinburgh at such a young age?
I think the move north to Scotland wasn’t as hard as the first move from Ebbw Vale to Swindon; I was only 16 at the time and not very street wise. After spending two years living away from home it didn’t really bother me going as far as Scotland. As a young footballer trying to make it in the game you have to take the opportunities when they arise, regardless of where you might end up.
How did your move to Hibernian come about?
Having been told I wasn’t getting a pro contract with Swindon, I had to rely on people contacting various clubs on my behalf, I also had an agent at the time. Basically between my agent and the likes of Paul Bodin, George Woods and David Burns of Swindon I had a message that Motherwell FC were looking for a keeper for their U19’s and they wanted me to go on trial which I agreed. While I was on trial at Motherwell FC, Hibernian and Hearts both contacted my agent for me to go on trial with them. I was looking for a two-year deal so basically whoever offered this I was likely to sign for them. Motherwell FC offered me a one year deal, so I agreed to go to Hibs next and basically having spent just two days training with them they offered me a two-year deal which I accepted without going to Hearts. Hibernian really impressed me, they made me feel very wanted and with their excellent facilities and history of bringing on youngsters, I couldn’t wait to start. Motherwell FC then changed their minds and offered me a two-year deal, but by then I had made my mind up to stay with Hibs.
How do you feel preseason went for you and the team?
I knew this season was going to be a big season for me. I went home for the summer and had a few weeks off to recover, which also included a holiday to Magaluf with the boys. I then trained my socks off for about 3/4 weeks before going back to Hibs for pre-season training. I had a really good pre-season even finding myself as the number one for a couple of weeks; Stacky had gone and Mark Brown hadn’t signed his new contract offer, then Ben Williams signed from Colchester. I played against East Fife in my first team debut before going on tour to Holland/Belgium and Germany where I played a full 90 minutes against a local Dutch side keeping a clean sheet (Hibs won 4-0). When I returned I was told that I was going to be Hibs’ number two keeper which was a surprise because I thought I would be going out on loan. The team played well in their pre-season games and we were all looking forward to the first league game away to Dundee United. It’s a great experience for me being Hibs’ number two goalkeeper, I’m really looking forward to both home and away games and hopefully I’ll be involved in the new U20 league games as well.
You played for East Stirling last season – how did you find playing for a club that regularly sits at the bottom of the Scottish Third Division?
Having been at East Stirlingshire last season on loan I learned a great deal about playing adult league football, especially with a club who had nearly ceased to exist. I think East Stirling only had a couple of players signed when I went on trial with them, so it was totally different to what I was used too. The club made me feel really welcome and I’m the sort of person who thrives on helping the under dogs – it was hard at times but the coaches and fans were terrific. Although we finished bottom of the league, which was very disappointing, I think just to put a team on the field and compete most weeks we should feel proud at some of our achievements. We seemed to play well against the top sides, taking points off them home and away, but struggled with the teams around us. Overall, I had a great time at East Stirling and I will always remember my time at the club and it is now one of the first results I look for.
Where does winning East Stirling’s Fans’ and Players’ Player of the season rank amongst your career highlights?
As you can imagine I was always going to be busy playing in goals for East Stirling and with the club having so many new faces it was going to be a very challenging time. I enjoyed being busy in goals, it was what I needed, I wanted to learn as much as possible and playing week in week out helped me do that. When I look back at my performances I feel proud of what I achieved; to Captain the side especially at Hampden and then to receive Player of the Year awards off the players and fans was brilliant – a night I will never forget. I have so much regard for all the coaches the fans and committee at the club I hope they go from strength to strength in the coming years. I’ve won awards before but these mean the most.
Do you have ambitions to break into the Wales U21 squad?
My experience of being involved with the Welsh set up has been very limited, I’m hoping that I can impress the new Welsh management team enough for them to give me a chance to one day represent my country. I’m a very passionate Welshman and I cannot think of anything better than representing my Country in the future. It’s going to be difficult to get into the U21 squad, but I’m not giving up hope.
What would your advice be to a young goalkeeper trying to make it in the game?
My advice to youngsters trying to make it in the game is that it takes a lot of hard work, you need to be mentally strong and not to give up if you get knocked back. If it’s your dream and you have the ability then don’t let setbacks affect you – sometimes you need to step back to go forward. Not everyone will appreciate your talents; it’s all about finding the correct recipe that suits all parties. You need to understand that teams play football differently, some prefer big strong players, some prefer smaller technical players and the hardest part is finding a club that has a manager who thinks you will make a difference to his team. Be prepared to travel around if you broaden your horizon there might be more opportunities open to you.
If anyone, who was (or is) your goalkeeping hero?
As a youngster, I supported Newcastle growing up, so the answer has got to be Shay Given. There are a lot of good keepers about these days and the good thing about it is that they are giving keepers a chance earlier in life than before and they are sticking with the older ones longer. Hopefully you can start your career at the age of 20 and stay in the game until your 40 which is possible if you keep yourself fit.
Finally, if you could create an all-time best 5-a-side team only from players you’ve played with in your career, who would be in it?
If I could play in a 5 aside team with players I’ve met along the way then these are the players I would pick :
You can follow Calum Antell on Twitter at @CalumAntell