For most English players the thought of playing abroad is an alien one, whether it’s playing in the Premier League or the Vanarama, most tend stick to the grass that they know. However, as is normally the case, some buck the trend; for example Owen Hargreaves had a good career at Bayern and Matt Derbyshire had something of a ‘go’ at Olympiacos.
But something you might not expect, if you hadn’t noticed the title, is an Englishman who has played in North America, Asia and various clubs around Europe, entrée Calum Angus.
At the age of 29, the centre-back who started his career in Portsmouth’s Academy has now called time on his illustrious career. And while that might seem quite young, Angus played in Sweden, USA, India and England during his 11-year career, and has now taken some time to lift the lid on his experiences.
As mentioned, Angus started in the Portsmouth FC Youth Academy and eventually made it all the way into the first team squad, who were playing in the Premier League at the time.
Despite it probably being a distant memory now, Angus spoke about what is was like starting out as a youngster,
“At the time I was young and somewhat naïve of what it took to be a pro footballer. My aspirations were always to play in the Premier League and become part of the the first team squad, but I don’t think I realised what an opportunity I had, I thought it was going to be simple, but more to the point I think I just expected that it was going to happen.”
Angus considered himself lucky to start his career out at his boyhood club, and only had good things to say about his time there.
“I made some great friends there and learnt a lot from my coach Mark O’Connor. As a youngster you were still so close to the first team as you train daily and so do they. It was an amazing experience, and being part of a team that made the Premier League was incredible. We would be in charge of cleaning the changing rooms on game day so we would be rubbing shoulders with the best players in the world.”
The Greenwich born defender never actually made a Premier League appearance, despite being in the squad, and it remains one of his few regrets.
“When I look back now I kick myself because I was so close and I didn’t take the opportunity. I completely took for granted the position I was in and did not do enough to give myself the best chance possible [of playing]. I’m sure if you asked all the boys they would do things differently now.”
Angus wasn’t offered a new deal at Portsmouth and thus a new chapter begun in his career. Despite offers from Gretna and Exeter FC, Angus was actually advised by his mother to go to college, and so his career in America began.
The six-foot-tall defender joined Saint Louis University on a soccer scholarship as an 18-year-old. His time in college football proved very successful, and amongst his achievements he was named the A10 Defender of the Year.
Because of his success, Angus was then involved in the MLS SuperDraft, were he was expected to be drafted in the first round, however it didn’t go to plan. The Portsmouth man had recently turned down a trial with New York Red Bulls, and this had a big impact.
“The Draft was a whirlwind experience that was very emotional because I didn’t end up getting picked. Turning down the trial definitely played a role in not getting drafted. I was predicted to be picked in the first round, but myself I still had aspirations of being closer to home. My agent was aware of my desire to move home and made it apparent to teams in the MLS. When New York asked me to go them I already knew of interest in Sweden and my heart was set.”
Calum joined Swedish side GAIS after a successful trial in June 2009 and managed to almost immediately cement his position in the backline despite joining half-way through the Allsvenskan campaign. Despite making such a drastic switch, Angus looks back on his long-stay in Sweden as the fondest part of his career.
“I wanted to play closer to home and when I got the chance to play in a top European League came I could not turn it down. I was so happy to go and start there, it was massive change but I loved every minute of it.”
Something that might have helped the defender settle was a debut goal, coming in the 81st minute as a substitute, the winning goal in the match.
“The goal was an amazing feeling. I didn’t realise at the time just how special it was, I didn’t realise the magnitude of the occasion, but looking back now it was such a great feeling and it is something that will stay with me forever.”
Angus spent four years at GAIS, and during that time he had the chance to train with West Ham United, of the Premier League.
“My agent told me I had the chance to go there to train, and of course I wanted to take it. It was great experience to see the professionalism, despite me being a bit rusty in the off season. There were some great lads there as well, particularly Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble, you can see why they are the captains because they are really nice off the field as well as being an example on it.”
Despite such a successful time in Sweden, it ended very abruptly for the Englishman, but as it always had been in Angus’ career, another door opened, and the defender made the decision to go to Asia within two days.
Moving to his third continent, Calum joined I-League runners-up Pune FC in India. He became only the fourth foreign defender in the I-League era, with the others previously coming from Uzbekistan, Nigeria and Senegal. Such was the challenge, Angus embarked on his biggest career change to date.
“India was tough. Everything that goes with it makes it extremely difficult, especially if you are used to a certain standard and way of living. The people were amazing but the facilities were very challenging. It all made for a great experience though and something that I am proud of myself for doing – albeit sooner than I should have.”
Angus had already experienced playing in several leagues, but found the Indian style to be an eye-opener.
“The standard is good and overall the players were technically excellent. However, where the challenge lies is the mentality of the players, especially when things may get tough. They are all good athletes and technically very gifted, but it was hard for the players tactically because they had not been brought up with a tactical emphasis.”
Football in India has grown immensely in the last few years and now in includes names such as David Trezeguet and Alessandro Del Piero. Calum continued,
“The players play with freedom and its nice to see, but it reminds me of when you play with your friends at a younger age. When there is three points on the line they tend to take it or leave it and don’t do everything in their power to get the win.”
Calling time on his career, Calum Angus also spent time at Indian club Dempo, before eventually making his new home in Canada.
Asked if he would go back and change anything, Calum had some final thoughts on his career,
“Of course there are decisions I made that in hindsight I would do differently but overall I try not to dwell on the past. I wish I realised the chances I had and worked harder to take them. I never intended to travel as much as I did, but I’m so glad I have. I have met my wife because of it and met some amazing friends and lived in some great places.”
Nine league goals, three continents, five clubs and a career that most will envy. Angus might not have gone through his career the traditional way but he definitely doesn’t have too many regrets.