Leyton Orient forward Paul McCallum returns to Portsmouth as a different character
- Credit: Archant
23-year-old made ‘stupid mistake’ during his loan at Fratton Park, but the costly incident helped him grow up
Leyton Orient forward Paul McCallum will return to Portsmouth tomorrow (Saturday) eager to show how far he has come and grown up over the last two years.
It was back on January 24 2015 when the striker received a straight red card for Pompey against Southend United in the second match of his loan spell from West Ham United.
Aged just 21, the youngster reacted angrily towards referee Lee Collins and received an additional four-match ban on top of the three he was already set to serve.
But anybody that knows the O’s forward off the pitch will have seen him mature since arriving at Brisbane Road in the summer of 2015.
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McCallum is a hugely popular character at Orient and has been a leader for the club at times this season in League Two.
He said: “The incident was something stupid. I was so eager to impress at Portsmouth because it was a big club and I was on loan.
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“I got sent off for something that was very silly and I didn’t think it was a red and all the emotion got to me.
“I ended up doing something stupid and it cost me. I got a seven-game suspension, a big fine and missed a big chunk of the season.
“Obviously I was at a big club and I could have used that loan as a big stepping stone for me, but I’ve learnt a lot since then. I’ve grown up now and it was a mistake that shaped the character I am today.”
The former Dulwich Hamlet forward has matured since the incident, but is the first to admit he still gets frustrated with referees.
McCallum will frequently be seen chatting with the man in the middle and more often that not telling him the last decision he made was wrong.
But the frustration the former Pompey loanee can show at times is his determination to do well for O’s and succeed.
And his mistake at Fratton Park and the anterior cruciate ligament damage he suffered to his knee eight months later has made him appreciate football even more.
“I think referees just hate me for some reason. Every Saturday I try to speak to them, but they don’t give me anything,” laughed McCallum.
“The incident has helped me grow up and the injury made me realise you can’t even take day-to-day training for granted. You have to work hard all the time to become a better player.”
Before damaging his ACL with O’s at Northampton Town, McCallum had scored three goals in nine games at the start of the 2015/16 campaign.
It helped Orient begin the season with five consecutive league victories and saw Jay Simpson get off to a flyer as well.
The duo appeared to strike up an excellent partnership, but unfortunately we won’t see that again at Brisbane Road.
Simpson completed a move to MLS side Philadelphia Union on Monday and it left McCallum with some disappointment.
After returning from injury, the Orient number 10 only started seven games with Simpson and they rarely finished a game together.
“It’s very frustrating because last season Jay and I struck up a good partnership and unfortunately I got injured,” said McCallum.
“Since then we’ve never really got the chance to redevelop that form, but I’ve learnt a lot from playing with him and I wish him all the best in the MLS.”
While Simpson gets ready for life in Philadelphia, McCallum and Orient will be battling at Fratton Park this weekend.
Portsmouth are currently fourth in the table while O’s are at the opposite end and looking over their shoulder in 21st position.
A first away win since November 12 would give Orient a massive boost, but they know it is not going to be easy at Pompey.
Nevertheless, up front they will have somebody ready to hold the ball up and win fouls in order to get some vital points.
McCallum said: “I’d love to go back there, score a few goals and get the winner, but what’s more important is the team getting the victory, being solid and not losing – that’s the main thing.
“I don’t think there is anybody still at Portsmouth from my time. It was a few seasons back and I missed last years match because of injury, but we managed to get the win and hopefully we can do it again.”