BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
EDINBURGH CITY can proudly reflect on how far they have come when they line up for their historic League Two curtain-raiser today.
And goalkeeper Calum Antell has been on a remarkable journey of his own.
The 24-year-old joined the capital club this summer following two-and-a-half years in the the rough-and-tumble of the Highland League with Nairn County – while commuting from Edinburgh.
It meant 320-mile round-trips for every home game and mammoth excursions to the likes of Clachnacuddin, Brora Rangers and Britain’s most northerly mainland club, Wick Academy.
Antell is delighted to be back playing in the capital, where he was on the books of Hibs as a kid – but insists he has no regrets about his formative stint with the Wee County.
The former Wales under-19 international said: “On the face of it, going up to the Highlands and travelling three-and-a-half hours for a home game, maybe wasn’t ideal in many ways – but it got me playing, it got me games again.
“The gaffer [Les Fridge] up there was really helpful with me, but I was doing things like going up there on a Tuesday night then getting up for work on a Wednesday morning. It was difficult but I really enjoyed my time there.
“I was living in Costorphine so I’m looking forward to playing back down the road! The longest trip would have been Wick Academy away – I left at six in the morning and got home at 11 at night. It was a full day.
“We had Wick on a Tuesday night once and I had to take the next day off work! I think I’ve seen every part of Scotland on my travels.
“You learn a lot up there – the boys are bigger and don’t care about where you have come from. There are a lot of big, meaty Highland boys – six-foot-six characters. But that’s a brilliant learning curve and I’m glad I went up there and challenged myself.”
Now back in Edinburgh, he is set to be pitched straight into a historic occasion.
The Citizens became the first side to ever win promotion through the pyramid playoffs last term and welcome Forfar Athletic to Meadowbank for their maiden SPFL fixture this afternoon.
And Antell firmly believes Gary Jardine’s men can shock Scottish football yet again by mounting a playoff charge.
He continued: “I don’t think we are just looking to stay up, we are looking at the playoffs. I think we will be a lot higher than what many people expect.”
On a personal note, Antell hopes to kick-start his own career in the capital.
As a youngster, the towering keeper was highly rated at Easter Road, winning East Stirlingshire’s player of the year award during a loan spell in League Two during the 2011/12 season.
However, he was released by Hibs in 2013 and endured a nightmare season with Queen of the South, enduring issues with his fitness and form, before slipping out of league football.
Antell added: “I have matured a lot since then and hopefully I can have a good season and see where I can go from there.”