Date Posted: 12/03/2018
Current GFC goalkeeper Callum Stanton may not be a Guernsey lad – as we’re sure you already know, he is on loan to us from Bournemouth – however, he has certainly earned a warm place in the hearts of Guernsey FC fans this season with his hard work, dedication and increasingly apparent skill. If you caught the action from Tuesday night’s away trip to promotion chasers Walton Casuals, either in person or via GFCTV, then you will know exactly what we mean.
Praise has rightly been heaped upon Callum for his outstanding performance at the Elmbridge Sports Hub, and even Cal’s Mum Elaine - who managed to make the round trip by road to watch him play - declared it as ranking right up there as one of his best ever games. Despite having that long drive back to Bournemouth ahead of him after an exhausting match, Callum kindly delayed his departure homewards so that we could have a few words with him.
We started by asking him to assess the match, and our valuable away point, from his perspective. “Obviously before the game, we would have quite happily taken the point,” he begins, “but then we went two nil up as it was, and then tried to defend that lead, and in the end I thought it was a good point to be honest, because they were a good side and they dominated most of the play and had most of the possession. I thought defensively tonight we were excellent though, so to be fair we fully deserved
The midweek fixture had presented us with some availability challenges, and so it was quite a mixed and inexperienced squad overall who travelled away that afternoon, but this gave GFC a chance to bring on 16-year-old Callum Le Lacheur, who then had around fifteen minutes of excellent experience of men’s football at this level, with all the intensity which that entails. “That will definitely stand him in good stead,” says Callum enthusiastically. “I can say that from first-hand experience, because obviously being in my shoes at Bournemouth as a young lad, to come up and play for a first team, at no matter what level, is a big thing. I thought when he came on he did very well, he certainly gave us that extra energy to get our team up the pitch, so I thought he made a positive impact.”
As you may recall, Callum initially joined Guernsey FC early on in the season, but after a run of around eight or nine games he sustained an injury while training with Bournemouth, which took him out of action for a while just as he was hitting his stride. “That was a frustrating time,” he admits. “I’d been getting into a run of games and so the injury was disappointing, but then in a way I think it’s helped me to come back again a bit stronger, and more ready to go again and fight for the rest of the year.”
Callum’s clearly making great strides forward, and we wondered if he had also seen an improvement in the rest of the team over the last few weeks since returning from his enforced break. “Oh yeah, definitely,” he agrees emphatically. “I mean, I was talking with Tony earlier, and I said that I thought, say four or five weeks ago, we would have definitely lost that game, no question, so to come away with a point tonight is excellent.”
Looking right back to the start of Cal’s Guernsey FC journey, we happen to know that when he first heard he was coming over to us on loan, he didn’t really know anything about Guernsey as an island or as a club, as indeed he is the first to admit. We wondered what his initial impressions were as he made that big step into the unknown. “When I first came over, I was obviously a bit sceptical,” he confesses. “I mean, after all I was coming over to a new club where I didn’t know anyone. I have to say though, that ever since I’ve been here, all the lads, and Tony, and in fact everyone around the club has just been so welcoming. It’s really helped me on the pitch as well as off the pitch; it’s just given me that extra confidence, so for me definitely I’m delighted with how it’s turned out, it’s been really good.”
And in terms of individual progress, we asked to what extent Callum felt playing regular games has helped him personally. “Certainly I find that as a goalkeeper, that’s the main thing. Whatever level you’re playing at, the most important factor is simply that, to be playing games,” he explains. “As a goalkeeper, you can never replicate playing an actual game in training, in my opinion anyway. It’s all about developing that real sharpness in the game, and the match decisions you have to make, and how quick you have to make them; you need to learn how to come to the right decision in a split second; and you just can’t simulate that in training, so personally I think it’s been a good experience for me, and hopefully I can carry on now and keep going till the end of the year.”
Since Callum has spent a lot of time at Bournemouth, a well-established professional club, whereas Guernsey FC was only set up around six years ago now and is still very early in its history, we wondered how we measure up in his eyes, and especially what he makes of our set-up in terms of what it can offer the younger players, like Callum Le Lacheur, who are moving into the team. “Funnily enough, I was saying this to Tony earlier,” he grins. “I’d say the set-up, in my experience, is just like a pro club really in many respects. I mean, everything the lads do here - the way they are around the ground, the ground itself, how the club is run - it’s all comparable with how we run things at Bournemouth, and so I’d have to say that it’s a great club to be at as a young player. Obviously Tony and the club are really committed to bringing through the youth players, as you saw tonight with a few of them on the pitch, so it’s a really good club for a young player to be a part of.”
We wondered what Cal would say to people back at Bournemouth if they too had an opportunity to come to Guernsey, and whether that would be something he would now recommend. “Yeah definitely,” he agrees, “especially for the younger lads. The older ones obviously would probably want to be going out to football league teams to progress their professional career, but for the younger lads it’s a perfect environment, a great set-up as I said earlier, and the people are fantastic, so it would be a great opportunity for any young lad to come here.”
So much for Callum’s impressions of the club, which we’re delighted to hear are as positive as our opinions of him. But as inhabitants of a proud tourist island, we had to ask whether he has had much of a chance to have a look around the rest of Guernsey as yet on his [literally] flying visits. “Definitely something for the summer, I hope,” he smiles. “I’m only over from the Friday to the Saturday on home match weekends, so that means I haven’t had much of a chance to explore so far. I’ve been down into the town centre once to grab some food but that’s about it, so hopefully I can get out and adventure a bit more at some stage!”
One part of Guernsey Cal certainly has had the chance to become familiar with is St Pierre Park Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort - a resort run by the club’s main sponsor, Hand Picked Hotels - since that is where he resides every Friday night before a home fixture. “Oh yes, they’re brilliant,” he enthuses. “It’s a great hotel, and the staff are fantastic; they look after me very well! The gym is great, and my personal favourite feature is the outdoor hot tub, I have to say!”
And of course Callum’s participation in the GFC squad would simply not be able to take place without the generous and much-valued sponsorship he receives from Blue Islands, who deliver him safely over to us the day before every home match, then fly him back home again afterwards. “They are wonderful,” is Cal’s heartfelt opinion. “I’m really grateful to them for making this whole experience possible, so I’d like to say a big thank you to Blue Islands for sponsoring me.”
And thank you to you too Cal, from the GFC faithful, for putting us all on cloud nine after your superb shift on Tuesday night and congratulations on achieving that elusive clean sheet on Saturday. First of may we hope. #COYGL