Patience has certainly been a virtue as well as a necessity for Edinburgh City goalkeeper Calum Antell this season.
Having begun the season as first choice following his arrival in the summer, the Welshman then lost his place to Andrew Stobie. Six months later, he finds himself back between the sticks.
Restored for last Saturday’s 3-0 win over Elgin, he retained his place for Tuesday’s 2-0 East of Scotland Cup semi-final victory over Spartans.
Successive clean sheets will probably see him start again away to Montrose tomorrow. Despite that frustrating spell on the bench, Antell has no complaints over his lack of game-time given his fellow keeper’s good form.
“It’s been a long five or six months,” said the 24-year-old. “I hate watching football anyway so it’s been quite challenging but the boys have been different class, especially Stobie. He’s been brilliant and I can’t grumble that I’ve not been playing. He’s been my player of the season I think so far. It’s been a team effort as well over the last four or five months, everyone’s picked up their game and realised we’re in a situation we don’t really want to be in but we’ve got that belief now and we’re looking up the table.
“There’s only one position for us on the pitch, so you’re waiting on a mistake or an injury to try and get back in the team. I’ve not even had the chance to knock on the gaffer’s door on a Monday because Stobie’s been different class. Sometimes you’ve just got to accept that and as long as the team’s doing well that’s the most important thing. You know your chance will probably come. Being a keeper, you expect to make a mistake over the course of the season as well as an injury.”
Antell has had to keep his fitness and sharpness up off his own bat. “I’ve had to stay sharp in training and do things on my own time in the gym as well,” he revealed. “I haven’t had a lot of U20s games because they’re on a Friday night and the manager doesn’t really like you playing on a Friday in case something happens on the Saturday, which is understandable. There was relief on Saturday after that clean sheet and the win, it made it all worthwhile.”
Having not played since City’s winless start to the season, the personnel in front of Antell has changed somewhat, and the keeper believes he’s come back into a stronger team. “We’ve added a few experienced boys and that helps, especially through the middle,” he explained. “We’ve got an experienced spine and that makes a massive difference. When I first joined I think people were maybe a bit scared of the opposition and nervous of who we were playing, but after we’d played them all once and saw what they were about, we knew we belonged in this league.
“It was hard in the first few weeks. We tried a couple of different formations but we’ve a settled one now and you can see how the results picked up over the course of a few months.
“We you look at other teams in the league, we’ve probably got a bit more pedigree in our squad than them. Boys like Marc [Laird] Josh [Walker] and Beats [Craig Beattie] have played at a much higher level than probably most players in this league. They’re all winners. That’s what you get from players who’ve been at that level, they just want to win every week and when they don’t you can see the frustration on their faces.
“They bring that in to the changing-room – they have that winning mentality so they’ve given us a massive boost. They’ve been different class, especially when results weren’t going so great. They made sure everyone’s confidence was still up, telling us not to give up.”
Tomorrow’s trip to Links Park is not only a return to the venue where Antell last started before his reinstatement, but to where City recorded their first ever win as an SPFL Club, so go there in a positive frame of mind. “That was a massive win,” Antell recalled. “So were the celebrations on the way back as well! A few boys did their initiation songs, I know mine was terrible! I think it was the Lighthouse Family and I had to explain myself to a few of the older boys like Jordan Caddow. He thinks he’s the main man when it comes to singing but a few of us disagree. I’m glad it’s not happening again to be honest.
“We’re just looking to carry our from over from Saturday, it was probably the best we’ve played all season. There’s no reason to stop, we need to kick on, reproduce it and you never know where it can take us.”