As Calum Hall prepares to complete his first season as an Edinburgh City player, the teenager has reflected on what has been a valuable experience after going semi-professional last summer.
Having been released after three years at Hibs, the then 16-year-old was on trial with both Motherwell and City, opting to join the latter for their second season as an SPFL outfit.
Initially brought in with a view to playing for the club’s Under-20s team, Hall’s sessions with the first team were impressive enough for then boss Gary Jardine to sign him after rave reviews from senior players.
Since then, Hall has featured fairly regularly, though often from the bench, but has no regrets over eschewing the pro academy system and development league football for the less forgiving surroundings of Scottish football’s bottom tier.
“I effectively came from Under-17s football to first-team football, so I’ve gained a lot of experience,” he said. “There’s a lot of experience in our team and that’s helped me grow as a player and made me more mature in a way.
“I’ve maybe not played as much as I would’ve wanted to, but that’s part and parcel of it. I’m only 17 so I’ve just got to be patient, keep pushing myself and learn from the players that are in the team.
“When I did sign it was under Gary Jardine and he said I’d be dipping in and out of the Under-20s and the first team. Then I went for my first training sessions and just got sent to the first team and have been there pretty much ever since. It’s been overwhelming as I didn’t think I’d be involved this much, but I’ve really enjoyed it.
“At Hibs there were players who were older than me in the pecking order and that was one of the reasons I was released. It was maybe just the wrong timing for me perhaps, but it’s just one of those things you take on the chin and learn from.
“I went on trial with Motherwell at the same time I was on trial at City, but looking back on it now I think City was the best option for me. I’m learning more than I think I maybe would have playing development football.”
Jardine’s departure may have been cause for concern, with a new boss potentially favouring experience. James McDonaugh hasn’t been scared to utilise City’s 20s squad however, even if injuries have forced his hand at times.
“Either way, you’re always going to learn from whatever players a new manager might bring in,” said Hall. “They’re obviously going to be good enough to play for Edinburgh City so it was never a worry or a problem. It was Colin Jack [first team coach] that actually signed me for Hibs, so it was good to see him come in alongside the manager.”
Hall also tasted silverware at Under-20s level, City beating Spartans 2-0 to claim the Under-20 Lowland League Cup, and he believes there is plenty more talent for McDonaugh to call upon should he have to.
“The 20s has been good for me, but I’ve been in and out since the start of the season,” Hall explained. “I played more so since the start of the year, getting a few more games to keep up my match fitness. It was good to get a trophy and get the confidence of winning something.
“The manager hasn’t been scared to put young boys in the squad either. Me and Kieran Watson [Under-20s captain] have been on the bench quite a lot this year, along with a few others. He made his debut and I’ve had my fair share of minutes and that’s all I could really ask for. I can only thank the manager for giving me the opportunity and trusting me.”
City head to Balmoor tomorrow to face a Peterhead team looking to take full advantage of any slip ups by Montrose and claim the Ladbrokes League Two title. From Hall’s perspective, City want to make sure they don’t give the hosts cause for hope.
“We’ve talked this week about going up there to spoil the party in a way,” he said. “It obviously depends on what the Montrose score is, but it would be good to crash it with a win and finish the season with a positive result ourselves.”