CALUM Antell has worked under both John Hughes and Jim McIntyre — but it is under Nairn County manager Les Fridge where he is now starting to make an impact.
The 22-year-old was signed by Hughes at Hibs and made 10 appearances for Queen of the South under McIntyre last season. After leaving the Dumfries in the summer, he turned down an offer to work with Barry Ferguson at Clyde and signed on at Station Park.
Initially signed as injury cover for Callum Donaldson until the end of January, the Welsh goalkeeper penned a contract extension with Nairn last week, keeping him at the club until the end of the season.
He has made himself Fridge’s number one goalkeeper but his football heritage stems from two other Highland football managers.
"Jim is a really nice guy and a good manager — he’s even brought in Scott Thomson, who was my goalkeeping coach at Hibs," he said. "I can’t speak highly enough of Scott. You don’t realise how much you miss a goalkeeping coach until you don’t have one.
"John was my manager at Hibs and brought me up here from Swindon. It’s strange how things work out now that I’m playing up here too."
Antell works as a personal trainer in Edinburgh and only travels up to the Highlands for games, meeting Glasgow-based team-mates Kyle Wilkie and Brad Halsman in Perth to travel up together. It was Halsman who put him in contact with Fridge when the club needed a goalkeeper and after meeting his prospective boss, he had no qualms about signing.
To keep up his sharpness during the week, Antell, who has had loan spells at Brechin City, East Stirlingshire and East Fife, trains with Berwick Rangers on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Far from seeing the journeys north as a burden, the former Queens stopper would be happy to commit himself to the club long-term.
"I’m the same as any other player in that I’m only happy when I’m playing," he said. "I’m delighted to get a bit of stability in my career and I’m getting a run of games. Football is enjoyable again.
"I’ll see how things go from now until the end of the season but if Nairn offered me something beyond that I would be happy to sign. The boys are great, the facilities are better than I’ve ever had.
"Travelling doesn’t bother me as much as I don’t go on my own, but it will be better when the nights get lighter. Constantly coming up and down in the dark takes its toll. Thankfully I missed the mid-weeker away at Wick!"
This weekend sees the Wee County welcome high-flying Turriff United to Station Park, weather-permitting, and Antell says he has learned fast about the demands of the Highland League.
"I’ve been quite impressed, especially with the sides at the top of the table. Teams like Brora, Fraserburgh and Wick — there’s not a lot between them," he said. "There is a bit of a gulf between teams at the bottom of the table and the rest of the league.
"You get to hear about some of the Highland teams when they do well in the cup competitions, knocking out sides in League One and Two. It’s been a breath of fresh air only playing teams twice, compared to in League One and Two where you play each other four times a season and know what you’re going to get.
"Hopefully now we can go on a run up the table. With the squad we’ve got we should be higher but we’ve had bits of luck going against us."
Donaldson and Gregg Main will miss out due to work commitments but Paul Macleod and Martin MacDonald should shake off illnesses to be available.