Higgy’s Huddersfield Hurry

My interview with Kallum Higginbotham, which appeared in the Official Dunfermline Athletic Football Club Match Day Programme on Saturday the 19th of August, 2017, against Falkirk. Thanks to DAFC for allowing me to publish this on my website. 

It is Transfer Deadline Day. Just a normal day for Kallum Higginbotham…or so he thought.

Higginbotham was 7 years old when “Football came home” in 1996, but his journey into the senior ranks was not as straightforward as some may think.

From an early age, I can always remember having a football at my feet when out playing with pals. I didn’t get into senior football until I was 17, however, as when I initially left school, I was a scaffolder for nearly a year while I played part-time at my local team, Salford City, but then I got the chance to go on trial with Oldham and luckily I was offered a 1-year-deal.”

Working as a scaffolder, it gave Higginbotham a perspective of life out with the stereotypical lavish lifestyle of a footballer.

I was never in any Academies while growing up and I think if you are in an Academy, you aren’t really used to doing a 9-5 job. To do that as soon as I left school gave me a good grounding, and it paid me a half-decent wage too! When I got the opportunity to become a professional footballer I took it, but I have kept that experience with me and I know I need to work hard every day because otherwise, I know what is round the corner if I was ever to get released.”

The winger’s time at Oldham was short but sweet – with the then youngster scoring a hat-trick in a Youth Cup Final against Rochdale, which possibly sealed his move to Spotland.

I had scored a lot of goals that season but I was told I wouldn’t be offered a professional contract at the end of my YT, so at that age I was pretty gutted. On the same day I was released, however, I was told I was wanted by Rochdale and they were keen to get me in on trial. I played in a trial game, scored, and the rest is history. I remember my breakthrough season and I had a really good one too. We got to the play-off final against Stockport. Unfortunately we got beat 3-2, but it was a pleasure to play at the National Stadium, Wembley, but it wasn’t nice to be on the losing side. I was 18 years of age though and I was playing regular first team football – it was a dream come true.”

After a frustrating few seasons with Rochdale – which saw Higginbotham leave Spotland on loan on two separate occasions to join Accrington Stanley – it made the attacker’s mind up to leave for pastures new in Scotland…not before he scored a Beckham-esque goal to win Goal Of The Season, of course!

For whatever reason, things just didn’t work out and I went out on loan. I was then back at Rochdale for the final year of my contract but I didn’t play much and I was released at the end of the season. I remember their goalie came across to the byeline and then kicked it long. I just took a touch on my chest, on the half-way line, and just hit it first time…it was a special goal – I am sure you can still find it on YouTube somewhere! I sometimes try things that some players may not try – if you never give things a go, you’ll never know. I sat down with the Rochdale manager at that time, Keith Hill, and despite him having a lot of faith in my ability, he felt we both needed to part ways; I was sat in my house in the summer without a club and I got a call from Ross Wilson, who was working at Falkirk at the time, and he asked me to come up. I had a look around and got a deal agreed and then the next minute I was moving up to Scotland. I loved my time at Falkirk, I played some great football there which ultimately helped me gain my move to Huddersfield.”

Higginbotham made 34 appearances in his first season with the Bairns, scoring 2 goals.

My first game in Scotland was Stirling Albion away – it wasn;t the best of starts! We played them in a cup game early on, battered them for 90 minutes and then got beat on penalties! It was a very tough season, where I was in and out of the side but in my second season I cemented my place within the starting eleven and formed a great partnership with big Farid [El Alagui] and that form helped me get my move to Huddersfield in the end. I never really knew about the rivalry between Dunfermline and Falkirk but I did after the first game of the season. There was a great away support that day, they filled out the stand behind the goal and if I remember rightly, we got beat 2-0 that day so from that day on, I knew how much it meant to either side and all the supporters. They are always great entertaining games and hopefully we can get the right results this season.”

I was playing consistently well – I was scoring goals or setting them up near enough every game so I suppose you can say that was one of my green patches in my career. I think I have played well while I have been here and I had a great spell at Partick, particularly my first season; it is all about getting that consistency into my game. A lot of people in England talk Scottish football down. It isn’t until you come up here and play in it that you find out how good a standard it really is, how competitive the matches are and you see a lot of people come up from England and be unable to perform so I think that shows how tough a league it is – whether that be Premiership or Championship.”

Higginbotham’s last game for Falkirk was the League Cup Semi-Final against Celtic, in January of 2012.

It was a great moment for myself, especially getting Man of the Match despite being on the losing side – I think that shows how good a game I had. There was definitely no interest in me, before the game, that I was aware of: I think they were up here to watch Murray Wallace but I obviously stood out that much that they decided to take a chance on me. I went into training on the Monday morning as usual, but it was Transfer Deadline Day,” explains Higginbotham. “The next minute, I am pulled into the office by the manager and he has told me that there has been a bid accepted for me from Huddersfield – the next thing I know, I am in my car driving down south. It was 100mph as it wasn’t expected – when I got down there I met the manager, done my medical and the next thing it was all finalised; it was a surreal moment as I had been a Falkirk player in the morning but a Huddersfield player by night. It was a great move – personally, it didn’t work out, but I look upon it as a learning curve. There wasn’t much time for me to really think about all the speculation that was flying about that day – I was already in the car driving to Huddersfield when the new broke of other sides being interested in me but it was Transfer Deadline Day and I had already made my mind up. I feel I would’ve played a lot more that season had Lee Clark continued as manager – I made my debut on the Saturday – I got Man of the Match – and then Lee Clark was sacked on the Wednesday, despite us sitting second in the league… a week later Simon Grayson came in and I wasn’t his cup of tea but that is football.”

Similar to his Rochdale journey, Higgy was sent out on loan – initially to Barnsley before he had spells with Carlisle and Motherwell – before returning to win promotion to the English Championship after another play-off final appearance at Wembley.

That just sums football up – I went out on loan, to Barnsley, but I went up a division as they were already in the Championship, which is strange as well. I played well, the manager had kept an eye on me and recalled me for the final two games of the season, which I played in then I played in the play-off semi-final and then the final too: this time I was on the winning side. It was a fantastic personal achievement in my career. The best way to get promotion in England is through the play-offs, in my opinion. Yes, it is the hardest, but, to play at Wembley when it is fully packed and the sun is shining, it is amazing.”

Higginbotham has since moved back to Scotland permanently, joining Partick Thistle before spending 12 months with Kilmarnock.

The previous two years was spent on loan and I was trying to bed in, meet new players and it just wasn’t working – when Partick was interested, it was a no brainer as my family still lived in Scotland, even when I was playing down in England, and that was tough. If you aren’t enjoying your work, then you aren’t going to perform. I loved going into Thistle every day – I would probably say my first season there was arguably my best because I felt untouchable; I had a great season, especially after the split, and I had a big influence in that and I still get reminded about that when I meet Partick fans, still, now.”

I was travelling every day from Edinburgh to Kilmarnock, which was a camel journey in itself: looking back, if I could’ve made the decision again, I wouldn’t have joined them as I had went from enjoying my football, to not enjoying my football. It was nothing against the club, it just wasn’t right fot me. Fantastic club and fantastic fans but it was the travelling which got to me – I think that is something I have learned and will take forward with me. If I was to get an offer from a club far away again, I would need to look at moving closer to them if I was going to join so when I got put on the transfer list, I knew I needed away and the manager here wanted me and thankfully I got signed.”

Looking at his time at the Pars, so far, the Englishman said:

Absolutely not [a successful first campaign]. We set out to be in the play-offs and we didn’t get there, I think, because of the start we had to the season. On a personal point of view, I believe I done quite well last year but I know I can do better. I need to add goals to my game but I also like to assist and I have 4 to my name already so hopefully I can keep helping the team out in wahtever way I can. I don’t think we are favourites for promotion this season, I would say Dundee United are due to the signings they have made but, with the squad we have right now, I feel we are good enough to at least reach the play-offs and hopefully we can keep playing attractive football as I feel if we can do that, we will be a force to be reckoned with this season.”

Hear from Kallum here, speaking after Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Bairns.

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