INIGO FLIES HIGH AT THE SEAGULLS
Spanish ace suits tough English style
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.”
ALL SMILES: Inigo Calderon celebrates for Brighton and, inset, his compatriot Bruno takes on Hull’s Sam Clucas