Calum Angus: Sweden is the most beautiful place I have ever lived

Calum Angus is only 32 but he has called time on a football career which took him across the world having started at Portsmouth’s academy. In an eleven-year spell away from the UK, he played in three different continents before hanging up his boots. It was a move to the States which kick-started it all.

“I was in my final year at Portsmouth and it was when Harry Redknapp left Portsmouth for Southampton in the spring that year,” says the defender. “My youth coach Mark O’Connor said there were Premier League trials at Lilleshall where a lot of lower league teams were going to attend. A few schools were there from the US, Saint Louis being one of them.

“I got a few offers in the UK but the manager of Saint Louis was so persistent and my mum was keen for me to go for the educational aspect.”

The trials saw Angus agree to a scholarship offer from Saint Louis University where he would study and play for the Saint Louis Billikens college soccer side in NCAA Division I, the top tier of college sport. 

His time at college was a success. Whilst studying for a degree in communications, he was named in the All American team of the year in both 2007 and 2008 and also played for PDL (fourth-tier) side St. Louis Lions. His impressive performances saw him invited to the 2009 MLS Player Combine, a chance for the best college graduates to impress scouts before the Superdraft takes place. Hopes were high he would be drafted by one of the countries biggest clubs but unfortunately for the former Portsmouth man, it wasn’t to be.

“I didn’t have the best combine and didn’t train at all and it showed as I was a yard off and played terrible,” he says. “I still thought I was going to be drafted due to how well I had done at university and being a 2 time All-American but being a foreign player and taking up a foreign spot was an issue.

“I was also immature and my assistant at Saint Louis was Mike Sorber, who is a legend in US soccer and was the assistant to Bob Bradley of the men’s national team. We clashed due to our personalities so I am sure there was question marks about my attitude, which also contributed to going undrafted.”

Despite going undrafted, several MLS clubs were still interested in the English defender but after impressing at college level, he thought he was deserving of more than trial offers and it was not long until he had his first senior contract.

“When I didn’t get drafted I was very upset and felt I was better than going on trial to some MlS clubs who had contacted me. My PDL coach introduced me to David Irving [a former Everton and Oldham player], head coach  at Wilmington and I knew I had to get in shape to give me the best chance to get to a level I knew I should have been playing at so I went there.

“I owe so much to Tony Glavin and David Irving who were there for me at such an unstable time in my life.”

In action for Dempo in India

In 2009, Wilmington Hammerheads played in USL Second Division, the third tier of football in the States. Angus made a solid start to his senior career, scoring once in his first four appearances for his new club but it wouldn’t be long until he was on the move again, this time to a club closer to his homeland.

“One of the lads introduced me to Eddie Rock [who became Angus’s agent] and he would help me get to Sweden, which worked out as I had spoken to some Swedish clubs in my final year at school.

“Once I was fit, I knew that would be my best chance so I went over there after four weeks at Wilmington. My coach [Alexander Axén] in Sweden was an amazing human and we gelled instantly. I was over the moon [to sign]!”

The Saint Louis graduate signed for GAIS, joining partway through the 2009 season. With just four senior appearances to his name in the States, he would go straight into being a regular in the top flight of Swedish football, starting 15 out of 16 games.

“The standard in the Allsvenskan is good but I was 22, which is relatively old to be making your pro debut. Being at Portsmouth at a young age and playing in the reserve league had equipped me well so I didn’t find the jump that extreme.

“I ended up starting nearly all of the remaining games and we finished the season well so the year ended very well for me”

That season would be the start of a five season spell in Sweden with GAIS. The following season saw injuries limit his game time but in 2011, he was back to his best playing 23 league games as his side finished fifth. His performances that year did not go unnoticed and earned him a trial with West Ham United.

His final two seasons at the club would not be as successful as they would go on to be relegated to the second-tier but it was a time in his career which Angus looks back on fondly.

“Sweden is the most beautiful place I have ever lived, as are the people and culture,” he says. “GAIS had such a family feel as a club and the fans were great so settling was very easy. The year I joined was so turbulent in the beginning so I was thrilled to be in a place I was happy with and finally playing pro, which had been a lifelong dream of mine.”

At the end of the 2013 season, with the club failing to secure promotion back to the top flight, Angus was released and his next move would see him have to adjust to an entirely new culture. 

“India came about as GAIS had been relegated and my now wife was six months out from graduating with her masters. It was a tough adjustment as it is so different from what we know to be normal. I saw so many different places in India and learnt a lot about myself.”

On his arrival at East Bengal

Angus joined I-League side Pune ahead of the 2013/14 season and despite the difficult adjustment period, he would miss just three league games all season and went on to make his continental competition debut, playing in the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup across Asia in countries such as Myanmar, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The following season he would again compete in the I-League, this time playing for Dempo. A brief spell with East Bengal, where he teamed up once more with English coach Trevor Morgan, in 2016 would then bring his time in India to an end.

“The standard is not great [in India] but the most challenging part of it is dealing with the lifestyle, facilities and different culture that you encounter daily. Each team has four foreign players and the rest are Indian. Technically they are good but tactically they are lacking, which causes challenges that you don’t expect to encounter in adult football.

“Looking back, I went there way too early and should have signed with Örebro where my old coach at GAIS had offered me a contract.”

After leaving East Bengal, Angus moved to Canada with his wife where he now works as an account executive at an IT company. His football career has taken him across the world and it seems like life after sport is doing just the same. 

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