Calum Ferguson is a 20 year old forward who joined Inverness Caledonian Thistle of the Scottish Premiership, after a decade in their youth system, earlier this year and earned a Scottish Cup medal in doing so. The son of a Canadian, Calum has represented Canada at various youth levels in tournaments including Torneo COTIF, the Milk Cup and the CONCACAF U-20 Championship. I spoke him about the Scottish-Canadian connection, Canada’s current crop of young players and playing for the team you rooted for as a kid.
SSPC: Aside from your mother being born in Canada, what’s your connection to Canada like and is it strange to play for Canada rather than Scotland?
CF: My family has a strong connection to Canada going back a while. My mum’s family originate from Scotland but like so many they emigrated to Canada and stayed there. I have lots of relatives that still live in Canada and come over to visit. My grandparents met and married in Canada and I grew up hearing all the stories. Yes I was born and raised in Scotland but Canada is part of my life and gave me my chance.
SSPC: From what I’ve read you discovered you were eligible to play for Canada by accident. When you found out how did you feel about it?
CF: My mum is a Canadian citizen and I was always aware of the connection but it only became real when I was playing under 17s with Inverness and got in contact with Rob Gale. Rob advised me to apply for Canadian citizenship and get back in touch. Interest died off for a while then I signed a professional contract at Inverness and later got on the bench for the 1st team at 18, my citizenship came through not long after and Rob called me in.
SSPC: You’ve recently cracked the Inverness senior team after being part of their youth program for about a decade and on top of that you’re Inverness born and bred. For your typical Canadian athlete (in any sport), that’s something they will likely never experience thanks to drafting. When you made you made your first appearance was it a dream come true?
CF: I’m born and bred in Inverness and have supported the club since I was a child. So yeah it was always my childhood dream to be a 1st team player and coming up through the youth set up was an exciting journey. From the age of 10 you are playing against the top youngsters in Scotland, the likes of Celtic and rangers and travelling abroad to youth tournaments, so it’s a unique set up that helps ease the transition into a professional or international set up. Coming on for my début was something I’ve dreamt of and will never forget, but you can’t dwell on that. The next step is starting games regularly and scoring goals.
SSPC: What’s your impression of the MLS?
CF: I follow the MLS closely and it’s great to see my friends from the National team breaking in and the likes of Kianz and Larin scoring goals. It’s a very different set up from in Europe but I think the introduction of 2nd teams in the USL will help the step up from residency programmes to the 1st team and hopefully see more young Canadians taking their chance in the MLS.
SSPC: With the U20 team you’ve taken part in some big tournaments, played some solid teams and travelled quiet a bit. Any experiences stand out?
CF: The national side has taken me around the world with lots of highs and lows. But my first involvement with the team at the Cotif tournament in Spain stands out. Making my début against Japan, then scoring my first goal for Canada against Belarus with my family at the game was a special moment and I will never forget it!
SSPC: What’s the biggest difference you’ve found between playing along side and against Scottish youth players and playing with and against CONCACAF youth?
CF: In Scotland the game is very direct and can turn into a physical battle, but CONCACAF opposition is a totally different battle. They will give anything to win scrap, nip, hit, kick whatever it takes and it makes it difficult for us to focus and play our passing game, but it is something we are used to by now and have to learn to handle in the right manner.
CF: Yeah there is some gifted players coming up through the Canadian system and we had a very talent age group. We proved how good we were as a group beating and competing against some of the top teams in the world, however we underperformed and let ourselves down in World Cup qualifiers. You see the likes of Cyle Larin scoring and playing for the senior team and it sets the bar for the rest of us to rise to. Everyone wants a taste of it and the future of Canadian soccer is bright.
SSPC: There’s a long history between Canadian Men’s program and professional soccer in Scotland, long time Inverness player Richard Hastings for example capped 59 times for Canada, and recently yourself, Dylan Carreiro, Fraser Aird, Luca Gasparotto and maybe even Scott Arfield appear to be kind of on the verge of rebooting that relationship. Is the fact that there’s this history add a level of pride to being part of the program and give you a greater sense of responsibility?
CF: Yeah there is a connection between the two countries which goes back a long way and is reflected also in soccer. I grew up watching Richard Hasting playing at Inverness and what he achieved winning the Gold Cup and scoring along the way is something to look up to. Richard is still involved with the club’s youth program and it’s good to get advice from him because he’s been there and done it all. Yeah I’m proud to have the opportunity to keep the connection alive and hopefully follow in the footsteps of some great players. Having Dylan and Luca in Scotland keeps us in touch and pushing each other to do well at club level and go on to earn the right to represent Canada.
You can follow Calum on twitter at @calum_ferg12 and instagram @calumfergg