Edinburgh City’s newly-acquired SPFL status was always going to be a big draw for players looking to step up from a lower level or play league football in the Capital.
For new signing Calum Antell, however, the chance to move to Meadowbank represented a chance to kick-start a career that has stalled somewhat since leaving Hibs in 2013.
An admittedly unsuccessful year with Queen of the South followed his exit from Easter Road before the man from Abergavenny, south Wales headed further north, spending two years with Nairn County in the Highland League.
Now returned in his adopted city, the former Wales Under-19 international goalkeeper is grateful to be back in something of a normal routine, playing locally at a good level.
“Things didn’t work out for me at Queen of the South so I have been in the Highland League for the past two-and-a-half years,” he explained. “Things didn’t work out for me during my last year of playing full-time, a mixture of injuries and bad performances on my part stopped me from doing well.
“I’m looking forward to being back here, training twice a week again, and really kick-starting my career.
“It was a hard experience after leaving Hibs. That was my first experience of being released and trying to find another team. In pre-season, we didn’t have a goalkeeping coach so it was hard to go from training on your own to working with a coach. I think that played a big part in my performances.
“Hopefully, now I can have a good season and see where I can go from there.”
Despite dropping out of the SPFL all together and clocking up the miles in order to train and play, Antell looks back on his Highland League experience as an invaluable one.
“Going up to the Highlands, 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,” he said. “You learn more as you play and that time has really stood me in good stead for the season to come.
“The gaffer up there [Ronnie Sharp] was really helpful, 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 that 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.”
Despite having roots in Edinburgh, Antell admitted having a friendly face in the City dressing-room from his day job has helped him settle in, and even proved influential in his decision to sign in the first place.
“I work in the Bank of Scotland which is a bit of a novelty, having been a pro footballer until I turned 21,” he acknowledged. “It was tough trying to find a job but thankfully I have supportive parents who pushed me and helped me out. I work with Ross Guthrie, so I kept in touch with how City were doing last year and you can see they have a winning mentality. Hopefully we take that into the new season. Ross persuaded me to come here so I’m glad that’s worked out.
“But it was really important to play and get my confidence back after my season with Queen of the South.”
Antell has started City’s last two games against St Mirren and Motherwell Colts, but knows he faces fierce competition for the gloves from Andrew Stobie and Gregor Amos. “The No.1 spot is there for the taking,” he added. “I have trained with the boys for the last five weeks and they are good keepers. It’s about who does better and keeps the jersey on the day. I look forward to the competition.”