Calum Angus: GAIS are ready to take the next step
Calum Angus interview – January 2012:
After finishing the previous two seasons in 13th and 11th place, GAIS improved in 2011 to surprisingly finish in fifth place, and only three points behind defending champions Malmö. Key to this improvement were the goals scored by Mervan Celik and Wanderson, who bagged 14 and 10 respectively, as the ‘for’ column looked healthy alongside GAIS’ name in the Allsvenskan table. At the other end of the pitch, consistent defending has marked the GAIS style of play over recent seasons with one of the top performers, back in the side during 2011 after missing out for much of the previous campaign, being Englishman Calum Angus.
In an exclusive interview with Blågul Fotboll, Angus talks about an improved atmosphere at the Gothenburg based club, the need for GAIS to improve when playing away from home and how important 2012 is for him.
Angus attributes the improved fortunes of grönsvart to the manager, the “immense” Alexander Axén, and admits to being frustrated at the selling of key players just as the club seem ready to take that next step of pushing for European qualification.
After an injury interrupted 2010, how pleasing was it to get so much game time during 2011?
It was a goal of mine to stay free of injury last year. When I came to GAIS in the summer of 2009 I played 16 of the last 18 games, so to have such a bad 2010 season due to injuries was very frustrating. I knew that if i stayed healthy I would be able to do well for the team and myself.
You had a very solid season; how pleased were you with your form?
Personally, I was very happy with how the season went. I had some good games and some not so good, but there were a lot more positives than negatives as far as my personal performance went. I will be looking to improve further for next year and be more consistent throughout the season.
GAIS finished in a very credible fifth place in the Allsvenskan last season, twelve points off the leaders Helsingborg. How would you compare that with the aims of the club before the start of the season?
We always knew that we had underachieved in previous years, however, finishing 5th is something even the most loyal of supporters would be surprised at. The Allsvenskan is a very close league, apart from the top 4 teams who are expected to be there or thereabouts at the end of the season, the other teams in the league are on a level playing field. It was our goal before the season to do better against these teams and be stronger at home. Our home record was very good and we went into every home game believing we would beat them – no matter who we were playing against. I think this was a major factor to us finishing where we did.
What was the mood like at the club when the season ended; was there a sense of accomplishment amongst the players?
Most definitely. It was the highest position we have finished in a while so everyone around the club was extremely happy with the result. The atmosphere has been a lot different than in previous years when we have been fighting for survival.
What kind of impact did Alexander Axén have throughout the season?
Axén has been immense throughout the time I have been here and our position last year speaks volumes for the job he has done. In the 3 years I have been here I have always felt the club were ready to take the next step, but then we would sell a few players which is frustrating for me so I can only imagine how hard it is for a coach to then have to reorganise and reshape the team.
What was your highlight during 2011?
It would have to be the 1-0 win over IFK Gothenburg. It was a great result and a really satisfying performance for me and the team. I watched the game over and over and we really did not give them anything. Our defending as a team prevented them from getting a single shot on target, so as a defender that is all you can ask for.
Were there any low points?
Not really. I spent 3 days in hospital with a stomach infection which meant I missed a few games but these things happen. I can’t really complain about that after the 2010 I had.
You were booked eight times last season, roughly once every three games. Is that a part of your game that you need to improve or would you say it comes down to your aggression in the tackle and Swedish football not being as physical as the English style of play?
A bit of both really. There were a few bookings I received that would not have been punished back at home, but I am not playing there so it is something I will work on, however, I am a defender and playing aggressive is what I am all about so I will not be shying out of tackles. If the ball is there to be won, I’m gonna go in 100%. I do not want to get a reputation as a dirty player because that is something I am not; anyone can go around the field being stupid and trying to win everything. The best players are the ones that do it at the right time. I am a great admirer of Thomas Vermaelen from Arsenal; he is one of the most aggressive players on the pitch – but a dirty player, he is not.
Towards the start of last season Elfsborg travelled to Gothenburg and left with a 2-0 win with your good mate coming on as a substitute. Were there a few tasty challenges going in between you and James Keene and a bit of winding each other up or was it a case that you see the shirt and not the man when you line-up against each other?
Me and Keeno have been good friends since the age of 14 so it is always weird coming up against him. We talk regularly on the phone so when we play each other there is always that little extra incentive to get the upper hand. We have had some good battles with one another and he is not going to shy out of any challenges against anyone, let alone me. What I remember of that game is there were not really any challenges between us, but there have been in previous games which always produces some banter after.
One of the stand-out players for GAIS last year was Mervan Celik; how far do you think he can go in the game and will how big a loss to the team would he be when he signs elsewhere due to being out of contract?
He will be a massive loss for us next season. The transformation in him from the time I came to the club to now is amazing. That is testament to the work ethic he has shown. He genuinely believes he will be the next Zlatan, and it is that belief that has enabled him to have the season he had last year. We have resigned ourselves to the fact that Mervan will not be with us next year and I am sure he will thrive wherever he ends up next season.
Who were the best players you lined-up against last season?
For me personally it was Mathius Renegie (now at Malmö, formally at Hacken) he was the strongest player I went up against and he is surprisingly fast. I really did not play well against him last year and he had a lot to do with that. Then I would say, other than Wanderson, would be Tobius Hysén; his movement is by far the best in the league and he is a constant threat.
You’ve had quite an interesting post-season so far having spent time training with West Ham United. How did that come about and what was the experience like of training alongside such established players?
It was fantastic. My agent said there was an opportunity to train with them, so of course I wanted to do it. It was great to see how a big club like West Ham work; their facilities are second to none and the support the players get from the staff is unbelievable. It was very encouraging for me to see the standard. Any player who has ever gone into a new club can agree to the difficulty it takes going in and being fully comfortable with the situation, but all the lads were great with me and made my week thoroughly enjoyable. It has only made me believe that much more that I can play at that standard and that is what I am aiming for now.
With West Ham monitoring your progress during 2012, has there been any interest from any other clubs in you?
This will be the year for me where my agent will be marketing me. We have sat down and spoke about this in-depth. After 2010 it was important for me to get a good season in of playing regular and completing a full season unscathed. Hopefully this year I can push on and start getting noticed. My professional career started in an unorthodox fashion in Europe as I chose to play football at the collegiate level in America so I am a few years back in experience. Hopefully, after this year, the teams that are monitoring me now will have an ambition to act on me.
With two years left on your contract have GAIS given any indication that they want to tie you down for longer or do you expect that to wait until this time next year?
I still have two years left on my contract so it is not something that I, nor GAIS, have even thought about really. If GAIS came to me with a proposal it would be something I would have to think about, but as of right now I am still a GAIS player for the next 2 years.
Sweden has quite a gap between the end of one season and the beginning of the next; how do you spend those months and is it difficult having such a gap where you’re not playing competitive football?
Yes it is extremely difficult. The season does not start until March so there is a long gap between competitive games. We are training from 6 January, so I try to just switch off from football when I am not playing because I know I’ll be fit and ready by the time Axén has finished with his pre-season training.
With Allsvenskan always being pretty hard to call, with nine different winners since the 2000 campaign, what do you see happening in the league next season?
There are always the 4 or 5 teams that will be up there, but for us I think it is maintaining the form we showed at home last year and being better away from home. If we can do that then we have a good chance of replicating last year’s position.
How’s your Swedish coming along?
Not so great. I am fine with conversations about football, but not with day-to-day topics; everyone speaks such good English that I am not forced to learn it. It is lazy on my part I suppose, but Swedish people love speaking English so if I can help them improve in any way then I am happy to help.
England and Sweden have again been grouped together in a major tournament; how do you see Euro 2012 turning out for both countries?
Who knows with England. They always make it harder than the nation would like. We have a tough group so I wouldn’t be surprised whatever the outcome. Sweden are no joke either, they could really cause us problems and with the pressure the nation puts on us to perform, I could see us not even making it out of the group stages.