Callum Elder is a name heard sparingly on the beaches for a decade but it has started finding its way in and amongst MWFA and Manly United chatter in recent weeks.
Elder’s debut for the Socceroos against China marks him as the 614th player to don the green and gold.
He is also the 4th locally produced Socceroo, following Gary Van Egmond (Manly Soccer Club), Ian Gray (Manly Vale Football Club) and Lucas Neill (Wakehurst Football Club).
Like most Socceroos, Callum’s story is unique and had its shares of ups and downs.
A nimble left-footed centre midfielder at the start of his career, he has since transitioned into a modern athletic left back who can more than contend in one of the most physically demanding leagues in world football, the English Championship.
Once upon a time, Callum preferred the sky-blue colours of MWFA Club Mosman FC where he began his football journey. From here, he went on to grasp an opportunity at Manly United where he was able to fulfil his potential, standing out as a junior at Cromer Park.
Potential that wasn’t hard to spot according to former teammate Dom Ferguson who currently plays in the Manly United’s first grade team. “He did have a raw talent about him, everyone knew he was on another level, and he always knew he wanted to be a footballer,” Ferguson said.
Callum’s strong performances eventually earned him a transfer to then English Championship contenders Leicester City where he joined their youth setup as a 16-year-old “scholar”. After completing his scholarship at the end of the 2012–13 season, he was awarded his first professional contract and after graduating to the Foxes’ U21 team, he progressed to sign a new deal and a further extension a year later, which kept him at the King Power Stadium until 2019.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing for Callum at Leicester City, as he bounced around teams in the English League One and eventually the English Championship on loan. After 6 loans in a period of 5 years, Callum would find his home at Championship side Hull City, signing a three-year contract.
Hull City is where Callum’s talent shone, going on to make 30 league appearances in his first season for the Tigers. “It’s a testament to his tenacity and his will to keep going” Ferguson said.
“Everyone is so happy with his success, he thoroughly deserved it and the journey he has been on is a testament to that.”
Callum’s resilience was built from an early age, an asset that became clear one evening at Balmoral with then Manly United U16 coach Louis Dimitropoulos. “I remember one time we trained at Balmoral with Louis, Callum ended up vomiting in the water because of how hard he pushed himself, that kind of discipline that he has shown throughout his career started early on in Manly,” Ferguson said.
Coach Dimitropoulos added: “Callum was captain of the team, he always had the mental strength side of the game, he never shirked the hard work and he was professional in his attitude to all things with his football. A natural leader, who never complained about the hard work and always listened. I’m so happy that he has gone on to achieve the career he has and now a Socceroo cap – every boys dream.”
A lot of where Callum is today is due to the time he spent harnessing his skillset as a young boy at Mosman and Manly United. He left home at the young age of 16 and never looked back. Callum’s drive to be a footballer is what his success can be accredited to, a drive that is complemented by the MWFA and Manly United ethos and pathway.
17 clubs on the Northern Beaches feed into the one representative team, and from here players are encouraged to dream big and push higher and higher without any bars placed on their progress. “Don’t get hung up on setbacks, you’ve got the foundations at Manly to succeed and there are a lot of examples showing that Manly is one of the best clubs for that,” Ferguson said.
“We will all be watching Callum’s journey from here on and we wish him all the luck with his journey towards the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.”
By Pat Ewing