Calum Angus interview – April 2011
GAIS wouldn’t be one of the first to roll off the tongue when asked to name some Swedish football teams. The old club, founder members of the top-flight Allsvenskan and winners of the inaugural season, aren’t considered to be one of the established, glamorous clubs in Sweden. But at the heart of their defence is a classy defender; elegant and composed on the ball; quick and strong into the tackle. And English.
Calum Angus signed for the Gothenburg based club during the summer of 2009 and made an immediate impact, coming off the bench to score a vital equaliser against Halmstad. A broken foot at the end of Calum’s first season meant that his second season at the club was interrupted, with no pre-season completed. However, he returned to the side and showed his worth in his first full season as professional by making 24 appearances and weighing in with two goals.
After watching GAIS defeat Djurgarden 2-1, where Calum starred at the heart of the Makrillarna defence, I had a chat with him about how he is finding life as an Englishman abroad.
Another good result for you tonight; what did you make of the match?
Yeah, it was a good result; considering we had a game on Saturday and quickly followed it was good to get the win. In the first half we didn’t play as well as we know we can and it was a bit scrappy but we’re happy to take the three points; that’s all that matters.
Djurgården didn’t really put much pressure on you but then you went at them and really put them under in the second half, especially when Wanderson got into the game. How important is he to the team?
He makes all the difference; he gives us that outlet. Even when he isn’t firing on all cylinders the other team are always making sure he’s covered and so it brings other players in to thrive and show what they can do.
Early on in the game there was a little bit of skill from you, almost like a Cruyff turn on the edge of your box…
Yeah, to be honest I didn’t think about it. It was only afterwards that I realised what I’d done. It just came to me. I saw the boy in front of me and it was all I could do. Luckily it came off!
What did Alexander Axén (the GAIS manager) say when he got the team over to the touchline towards the end of the first half?
He basically said that we were a yard off the pace. We worked during pre-season on pushing up high and closing their midfielders down straight away. He wanted us as a whole team to be a yard quicker and our first goal came from doing that so he’d obviously spotted what we were doing and wanted to sort it out.
Even though it’s still early in the season, GAIS are up there around the top of the league with almost a perfect start. How do you think the season has gone so far?
We spoke as a team before the pre-season camp about having a good start to the season and we looked at the first four games thinking we could win them all. We lost the opening game 2-0 but we took a lot of positives out of the game and it could have gone either way. The next three games we then went on and won them all. This league is so tight and anyone can beat anyone and it’s about getting a run together and building momentum. But we have to focus on taking it one game at a time.
Do you hope to be the surprise team of this season, that one club that suddenly appears to challenge for the title out of nowhere like Örebro were last season?
Yes, of course. There’s always that one team that comes in and we’re in that pack that could easily provide one of those teams. We’ll just take it a game at a time and as long as we do what we’re working on in training then we can beat anyone. We’ll keep our feet on the ground.
What about your own hopes for this season?
Play as much as I can and help the team out. If we can play well as a team then better things will come from that.
How’s it going for you on a personal level over here at GAIS?
I’m really enjoying it. I’ve been here for just under two years but last year I was dogged by injuries. It’s nice to finally be fit now and fighting for my place in the team.
How are you finding life living abroad?
It’s obviously different in many ways but it’s actually similar in so many ways. Sweden is a really nice country and Gothenburg, where I am based, is a great city. It’s not too far from England and I have family and friends visiting when they can. My girlfriend is over at the moment so things like that are pretty good, though the difference is that I do miss my home.
How did you come to be playing in Sweden?
I was playing college football in America, and had a good college career out there. I was approached by a couple of agents who said that they could get me a team over in Sweden and teams had actually been out to see me play. My agent got me over to train with GAIS and after a couple of weeks they signed me.
Was it a brave decision to turn down the trial that you were offered with New York in the MLS?
I wanted to get back over to Europe and when I wasn’t drafted I decided that I didn’t want to go on trial with a US team because of the college career I had. So I decided to come back over to Europe which is what I had half a plan to do anyway. Looking back in hindsight it was the right decision but it really could have gone either way.
How did you end up across in America in the first place after leaving Portsmouth?
I left Portsmouth at the time when Harry Redknapp was leaving to go to Southampton. He basically told me that he didn’t know what was going on because of the move and for me to go to the exit trials (at Lilleshall) to give myself more options as they didn’t know if I was getting another contract. So I went along and there was interest from some lower division teams but the college coach from St. Louis was also there. My Mum has always instilled in me to have a good background and to make sure I had an education and so, after the coach selling it to me so well, it was a great opportunity to go over there and show myself as a professional again. Looking back it was the best thing that I’ve ever done.
Were you playing on the same college circuit as Alejandro Bedoya (the American international who plays for Örebro SK in Sweden)?
He played for Boston College with our midfielder, Reuben Ayarna. We were in the same year but were in a different conference. We were ranked with them so I knew all about them.
Have you got hopes that one day you’ll play back in England?
You never know what will happen. I’ve got another three years left on my contract including this year so I’ll just look at it each season. Playing in Sweden opens up other opportunities to play in countries like Norway and Denmark. Really, it all depends on what options I have. I’d love to play back in England at one time.
There’s the possibility to be like Kenny Pavey (of AIK) and become a well decorated English player…
Exactly! Who knows what will happen. I’d never turn down a move back to England because it’s my home.
What’s the biggest difference between English football and Swedish football?
Obviously there’s no comparison with the Premier League. It’s hard to say really….I guess it’s not as physical over here as it is in England and it’s a little more technical here. In England there are so many great players, even when you look down at the lower leagues there are some good players at good clubs who have just filtered down. Overall the competition in England is a little bit better. Over here you have the Allsvenskan which is a good level and then there’s the Superettan where you have a few good teams but then it falls away after that. In England there are so many good leagues and so many different levels.
What are the fans like over here?
You’ve seen today that the fans are great; they are crazy as anything! We get a good following away from home and they really pride themselves on the English way. Not in the hooligan way, they aren’t crazy like that. They try to make as much noise as they can and they do a really good job of it. I enjoy it.
Do you have a good understanding of Swedish football culture and the big Stockholm Gothenburg rivalry?
You soon find it out! When I arrived two of my first three games were against AIK, who were top of the league at the time, and you see the Stockholm Gothenburg rivalry there which I thought was big. And then when we played IFK Gothenburg that was just crazy. All around the city you could hear it and there was a buzz. It’s comparable to when I was at Portsmouth and their rivalry with Southampton. The atmosphere and everything is really good.
How was your first Midsummer over in Sweden?
It was kind of strange. I arrived just in time for Midsummer two years ago and I didn’t know what it was all about. I know now that it’s such a big thing for the Swedish lads and they all go away and do things. Last year I didn’t do anything but I think this year I’ll go away and experience it with one of the lads.
When you’re getting a beer in at the bar are you still looking at how much it’s costing you?
Ha! It’s mental, isn’t it? Really crazy. What annoys me is that they give you these little pint glasses and they don’t even fill them halfway up! It’s just crazy. But no, it’s alright really.
Andy Hudson – April 2011.
An edited version of this interview first appeared on Les Rosbifs in April 2011.