Daniel Smith spoke to Calum Willock about his time at Fulham. Although the striker spent most of his career elsewhere he still has a special place in his heart for the place where it all started.
DS – How you got the opportunity to sign for Fulham?
CW – It was out of the ordinary. One of my good mates was already training there on evenings after school. He just asked me if I wanted to come with him one day and I, of course, said yes. The manager was Gary Brazil and at first, he wasn’t so keen but since I was already there he said why not. Then afterwards he said to come back and made me play in a match at the BBC ground. Straight after, said he likes what he sees and offered me schoolboy forms, then after made it pro.
DS – Have you always been a striker?
CW – Always had been a striker.
DS – The Fulham academy is top of the range now and lots of money is invested into it to maintain its category 1 status. What was it like when you were in our academy in comparison?
CW – It was good and from what I can remember I think I just missed all the cleaning showers and washing players boots etc! We had double sessions I’m sure and I was often pushed forward to the U19s when I was in the U17s. I remember Alan Smith was head of youth… I think.
DS – Do you remember your debut and how did you feel on the day?
CW – My professional debut was at home to Huddersfield in the old Div 1. I was excited being in the changing room with the senior squad and didn’t feel nervous until I entered the pitch.
DS – What was training like under Tigana?
CW – Tigana was a ledge, he would join in sessions and you could see he used to be a fantastic baller, he still had some decent touches. He would tell me more, more! As he always wanted you to set high standards on the pitch and off it… even down to eating!
DS – Did you feel that you got a fair chance to prove yourself at Fulham?
CW – I don’t think I did at all when Coleman took over which I knew made me feel unwanted and confused considering I was only a youngster. I was with the first team before him under Tigana. So as a youngster you can easily lose your head as you lack the experience to handle situations like that.
DS – Who in the first team did you look up to as a role model?
CW – I would say was Louis Saha.
DS – Who were your closest friends at the club?
CW – Would say, Elvis Hammond, Luke Cornwall, Malik Buari, Sean Davis and Barry Hayles.
DS – Who was the best player at Fulham during your time here?
CW – Either Steed Malbranque or Louis Saha.
DS – Do you still keep in touch with anyone from Fulham?
CW – Mostly just Elvis Hammond on a regular basis and Sean Davis now and then.
DS – How does Fulham differ from your other clubs?
CW – That it was Premiership mostly. The standard of quality in training, facilities and having the kit washed for you!
DS – Have you got any funny stories from your time with Fulham?
CW – One time in training we were doing crossing and finishing. I did a near post run and smashed into a mannequin. I’ve still got the scar!
DS – 3 caps, 3 goals for Saint Kitts & Nevis, that’s a good return! Who were your caps against and what was it like playing international football?
CW – 2 against St Vincent and 1 against Barbados I think. It was top draw to play for your country, that’s where my mum is from. The standard wasn’t that good but the food was. Was a good experience and I would play again if I get called up.
DS – What are you up to now?
CW – Still playing but semi-pro now at Cray Valley and do personal training.
DS – Do you have a standout moment from your career and why?
CW – Would say coming on for Fulham away at Newcastle, the stadium was packed and I was standing next to Alan Shearer. Now see him on MOTD!
DS – You’ve played for several league and non-league clubs. Just how big is the gulf between the two?
CW – I would say not much at all between non-league and league two and certain league one clubs. There is definitely talent in non-league that could play in the football league. Just that they don’t have their name on the back of the shirt but apart from that they are good enough.
DS – What are your plans for when you hang up your boots? Do you intend to remain in football and are you management material?
CW – I wouldn’t mind maybe coaching U10s or U12s at Fulham. I think I have some qualities for that role as I’m a people’s person and that’s important to get best out of players, you’ve got to have good people’s skills.
DS – Finally Calum, pie or pasty – Which filling?
CW – Chicken and Mushroom all day long.