INIGO FLIES HIGH AT THE SEAG­ULLS

Span­ish ace suits tough English style

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE: - By Nick Lough

SOME for­eign play­ers strug­gle to come to terms with English foot­ball’s rough and tum­ble – but Brighton’s vet­eran de­fender Inigo Calderon felt right at home straight from the off!

Af­ter leav­ing be­hind the warm com­forts of sunny Spain for the fresh sea air of coastal town Brighton, Calderon has en­joyed some real bat­tles since his trans­fer from De­portivo Alaves in 2010.

The 34-year-old full-back has made over 200 ap­pear­ances in the blue and white of Brighton since he im­pressed for­mer boss Gus Poyet while on trial.

Con­tra­dict­ing the str­ereo­typ­i­cal view that play­ers from La Liga lack phys­i­cal­ity and com­mit­ment in the tackle, Calderon’s bullish style of play was one of the rea­sons he came to Bri­tain to fur­ther his ca­reer.

He told The FLP: “When I was in Spain they al­ways told me to go to Eng­land be­cause even though I wasn’t as tech­ni­cally gifted as some play­ers I was phys­i­cally bet­ter, and com­ing here I’ve proved that’s true.

“The phys­i­cal­ity here is far greater than in La Liga, but I think the play­ers from my coun­try who come to Eng­land are im­prov­ing and be­com­ing more adapt­able to the cul­ture on the pitch.

“I think it’s bet­ter for English foot­ball that play­ers from over­seas bring their tal­ent and their tech­ni­cal abil­ity here, but for peo­ple like my­self, Bruno and Tomer Hemed we have had to get used to how rough and phys­i­cally de­mand­ing it can be.”

Af­ter spend­ing so long with the Seag­ulls, Calderon is al­most an hon­orary English­man now and it’s no won­der he feels so com­fort­able here.

“There’s noth­ing left in English foot­ball that can sur­prise me,” he said. “I’ve played enough games and had enough sea­sons here to un­der­stand the game and I en­joy it, but I al­ways try to im­prove and to learn.

“I feel con­fi­dent go­ing into big matches be­cause I know what to ex­pect when the op­po­si­tion comes at me.”

Per­haps it helps hav­ing com­pa­triot Bruno, 35, in the ranks.

“He is a good friend of mine on and off the pitch as we come from sim­i­lar back­grounds, and I think the way we have been brought up in foot­ball made us ready for the English game.”

Af­ter los­ing his place in the side, Calderon bat­tled through in­juries and fought his way back into the fold.

He came on as a sub in the 3-2 win against Bolton a few weeks ago and then started in their goal­less top-of-the-ta­ble clash at Hull City – in which he faced one of the league’s most men­ac­ing right­backs in Moses Odubajo.

Play­ing at left-back, Calderon was pleased with his per­for­mance against the light­ning quick wide man, and is hop­ing he can still prove use­ful to man­ager Chris Hughton for the fore­see­able fu­ture.

“It’s not been easy for me of late,” he said. “I hadn’t played in quite a few games, and I came back into it against Hull and was handed a mas­sive test in keep­ing up with Odubajo, who is one of the best play­ers on the right flank in the league.

“I think I did al­right, but over­all it isn’t about me, it’s about whether I ben­e­fit the team or not.

“I would like to play for two or three more years.”

For the time be­ing, though, Calderon is fo­cus­ing on Brighton’s pro­mo­tion chal­lenge.

Head­ing into the week­end, Hughton’s Seag­ulls were fourth in the ta­ble, just two points off top spot.

And with the top teams be­gin­ning to feel the pres­sure as the Premier League beck­ons, the Seag­ulls have fought their way right back into the mix.

“Last year was a bit of a disas­ter, whereas this year we have been in the top six for more or less the whole sea­son,” said Calderon.

“We’ve spent so many years in­side those spots and twice we’ve fin­ished in the play-offs and it’s not hap­pened for us.

“It’s great for the club the po­si­tion we are in, and if we keep knock­ing on the door even­tu­ally it will open.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

ALL SMILES: Inigo Calderon cel­e­brates for Brighton and, in­set, his com­pa­triot Bruno takes on Hull’s Sam Clu­cas

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