Paul McCallum Interview

Paul McCallum Interview

We travelled down to London on a nippy Wednesday morning, to catch up with our man Paul McCallum. The young 23 year old got into the game late but that didn’t stop him from making a mark on the beloved sport we call football. Firstly, we discussed football but some interesting topics and hobbies of his were brought to our attention. Some of which being very surprising and make this one of the most interesting interviews, of ours, to date...

What got you into football?

When I was growing up I wasn't really interested in becoming a footballer, it was more of an accident that I got signed. I went and played for Dulwich Hamlet because my friend dragged me along on a trial with him and I ended up signing. There was a few players injured and Gavin Rose, the manager there, said "You're playing today..." and literally in that game I scored 3 and went on to score 24 goals in 12 games for them.

At what age was that then?

That would of been the youth team, when I was 17 and it was my first proper game of football, so to speak. From the start of the season to January there were Premiership clubs and clubs from everywhere trying to get my signature and I realised I could make a very good living from doing this so I had to make a lot of changes to my life because I wanted to go to college before realising I wanted to play football… Training everyday with your friends doing something you love, it’s good! I started late but I’m glad it happened the way it did.

Would you say the age and the way you got into football was easier or harder than someone who’s been at an academy from a young age like 10-12?

I think in a way it’s a bit easier but also harder too because when I was 17 playing men's football at Dulwich, people would think "Wow, how’s he slipped through the radar?". When you start in an academy at 8 and go all the way through, there’s so much pressure on you to make the first team because you’ve been in that professional environment since you were 8 so I think there’s a lot of pressure on kids growing up trying to get into the first team and make it. I preferred it my way and would probably be a completely different player if I’d been in an academy since I was 9...

So were you just playing for fun?

To be honest, I was more of a cricket man and I liked playing cricket. Growing up in school, football was just something that I’d go and mess about with and I was good when I did play. For the way it happened to me it was a surprise but at 17 I made an impression and I worked hard from then to get to where I am now.

Why cricket?

In school I used to hang around with people that played cricket a lot and I was better than them. I was a batsman and it was big in my friends families but I always thought I was the best and I used to smack them around at lunchtime. They couldn’t get me out and they used to get frustrated. No-one in my family knows the rules of cricket apart from me but for me growing up, cricket was important.

From Dulwich to West Ham...

Avram Grant was the manager of the first team at the time but it was Tony Carr who brought me in. It was a shock for my body because I was overweight, my body fat was high and I wasn’t at the level that the boys were at. But going back to my other point, that’s one of the disadvantages of not coming through the youth team. It took me a while to catch up, training everyday, getting up early, travelling in. Then I realised actually how much passion I did have for football and then I started to grow more and more fond of it.

Was there anybody at the club that left a long lasting impression on yourself?

The senior players like Noble and Tomkins… They’d come through the youth team there and they were established first team players. They were always willing to talk to the young boys. There were some of the foreign boys in the first team wouldn’t even bat an eyelid at you but Tomkins and Noble, they were the ones that would banter with you and make you feel welcome.

When did you get your first taste of first team league football?

I went on loan to AFC Wimbledon, I think the season after signing for West Ham. I signed to West Ham in January, saw out the rest of the season and then signed for Wimbledon. It was Morecombe away and it was a very tough day. Wimbledon were playing long ball and that wasn’t really my strength back then. I ended up getting frustrated and getting sent off in my first ever league football game. I remember going into the changing room and thinking that my career was over. Sitting with a towel over my head, all teary eyed. Luckily, Neil Ardley, said we’ll appeal it because he didn’t think it was a red card but then I had to serve a three game suspension and that was my loan done so. He gave me a chance to train with the team again, for another week and said he was going to extend my loan, after the three games were up. He gave me another chance, so to speak and after that I think I got player of the month, the next month and I got 4 goals in 5 games so luckily he showed faith in me and gave me another loan.

What’s the tactical transition like coming from non league football to a professional standard?

At Dulwich it was more like play at your own pace, whereas at West Ham if the whole team pressed, you’ve got to press. The only thing that I felt that I couldn’t keep up with, at the time, was fitness wise. I think my first game for the U21’s was against Arsenal away and they were just passing it around and I was trying to chase everything to impress. At half time Tony Carr told me not to press and only do so when he told me to but I learnt quickly and I enjoyed learning, which I think was key for me.

What are your targets for the future?

Well making the drop down, that I have done, sometimes I feel like you’ve got to go down to get back up so my long term target is to be playing in the Championship minimum. I feel I can, physically and I just need to keep working and tweaking other aspects of my game to make sure I give myself the best possible chance. This season I just need to keep scoring goals. I think I’ve got 6 in 10 at the moment and I’ve never been in double figures for the season. Obviously last season I started off very well then did my ACL so that was frustrating. This season I just need to score as many goals as I can and get some attention for myself.

What attracted you to Concave?

I was looking to get a new pair of boots for the start of the season and I think I was on ProDirect and I saw the graffiti style boots. I thought you know what, that’s something different. Me as an individual I’m very different from the majority of footballers and probably every footballer out there so I thought that’s something different in terms of boots so let me give them a try. I went to order a pair and it got confirmed and everything but then there was an error with my order and they didn’t have my size so I was a bit gutted but I just chose a different style, still Concave and I followed @ConcaveFootball on Twitter and DM’d them saying I’m gonna give them a try this season so it started going from there really.

How do you feel playing in them, at the moment?

If I didn’t feel comfortable in them, I wouldn’t be wearing them. They just feel a part of me when I’m playing so they’re absolutely great!

What do you do outside of football?

I’ve got a five year old so most of my time is spent with him, after training, but if it’s just "me time" I like to go to gigs/concerts and go mosh pitting! I listen to like hardcore heavy metal and stuff like that. Like I said, I’m different to the majority of footballers out there so my spare time, I spend it mosh pitting, haha!

What’s your favourite band at the moment?

There’s a band called “Being As An Ocean”. They’re a band from the USA and they’re starting to take off. I used to listen to them before they were getting to where they are now so probably them.

We’ve noticed you’ve got the unique ear stretched piercing thing going on, how does that affect your game?

Well, the first game of the season, obviously I’m running around with big holes in my ears so I try to keep them in, then the ref said "You can’t wear them!" and I told him if I take them out there’s going to be an even bigger hole. He was sort of taken back by it. He didn’t know the rule on it or anything. I asked him what should I do and he didn’t have a clue so I took them out. I don’t know what the proper rule on it is but at the moment I’ve just been taking them out and playing.

How do you prepare for a game?

I’ll slap on my hardcore playlist and get pumped up for it. I do like to get into my own zone and do a little one on one stretching with the fitness guy but as soon as the headphones come off I try and get everyone else pumped up cause when everyone’s pumped up for the game, we all perform better. A lot of people want to keep themselves to themselves and I respect that but it’s a team sport and everyone should be on it together, as we go out.

So who’s the dressing room DJ then?

I’m last on the DJ list. I don’t get anywhere near it on a matchday. When we’re doing gym at the training ground I’m straight in, putting my music on. Some of the players act like they don’t enjoy it but I see them nodding along and getting amped up when they’re doing their bench press. So at the training ground it’s me but on a matchday I don’t think I’ll ever be near it.

Do you have any superstitions when you’re getting ready then?

I would never wear a normal sock. I have to wear ankle socks, during training and a game. On a matchday we obviously have to wear the official club socks for the kit so I’ll cut them above the ankle, put my socks on, tape over my club socks and have a bit of my skin showing in between. I think it’s just a comfort thing for me cause I don’t really lace my boots up, I like them to be open but the boot has to be nice and tight on my foot. When it comes to superstitions I always look in the mirror and say a few words that only I know. I say it to myself and make sure I go out there and give my best and impress.

Are there any other things you’re into, outside of football?

Yeah, I like music. Music is one of my loves and I love going to the theatre. Watching musicals in the theatre. Anything based around music or drama cause that’s what I did at school and wanted to go on to do in college. I can play the guitar, the piano, I can sing… You lot probably wouldn’t consider it as singing. You’d call it screaming but I can sing. Haha!

What TV shows are you into?

Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, you know them ones… I can’t stand reality television like Ex On The Beach. I watched it last night and it was just embarrassing. I just watched a new TV show called Stranger Things, which was unbelievable. My missus tried to make me watch it and I wasn’t really keen on it but then I caught a glimpse and started watching it and watching it and when she went off to work I started it all from the beginning and caught up and past her in a day!

Do you aspire to go into acting at some point?

After football I would probably try music because I consider myself decent at instruments and vocals. A lot of my friends are in bands and I always go and watch their gigs and I think I should be up there with them. Right now I’ve just got to be the best I can be at football but in secondary school we used to perform. There was five of us and we’d win talent shows. Looking back we were terrible though. I don’t know how we won but I used to perform back in school and it was fun.

What advice would you give to any young aspiring footballers?

I think that now, in this day and age, people are getting signed from non league all the time so you’ve just got to play your best because you don’t know who’s watching. For me, I didn’t even think that I would be a professional footballer and I just did my best because I was scared of the manager at the time. I didn’t want him to shout at me. Haha! I was doing my best every game and it got me where I am today so you’ve just got to keep grafting because you don’t know who’s watching and if you’re good enough it’s not that hard to get there anymore.

Writen by Concave @ 12/10/2016 06:06

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