FOOTBALL IS A small world, but it can still take you to far-flung places.

At 24, Cameron Saul already knows that better than most.

“Honestly, the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met on this journey I’ve been on, it’s been an honour and a privilege,” Finn Harps’ new striker beams. “They are the ones who have made it so special.”

His story begins in North London, where he grew up in the shadow of White Hart Lane. His friends in school were Arsenal or Tottenham Hotspur supporters. His father Wayne and older brother Junior were Liverpool.

“I’m a Manchester United fan,” he says proudly. 

“I remember when I was younger watching a United-Liverpool match in our house. I didn’t have a team at that point, I was only a kid, but United played really well. I looked at Ryan Giggs and loved him. 

“He was left-footed like me so that’s the reason I support United. And to annoy my dad and my brother.” 

Saul was around 11 when he joined his first local team. Not long after that his talent took him to Luton Town’s academy. He went through the system but hit road blocks. By 18 he fell into semi-professional non-league football just to keep his dream alive.

“At that point I wasn’t happy with where I was, I wasn’t happy with my progress or where I was going. So I started looking at universities in England that I could go to.”

And then a twist of fate.

A friend who had also grown frustrated with football in the UK got in touch from America. “He was so excited and positive about what it was like over there, how you could get a great education and still train every day like a proper professional. That really appealed to me,” Saul enthuses.

“I had nothing to lose as far I was concerned. It was a new adventure and something that I could try and make the most of to improve my own life. A playing career is going to be short so you need something to set you up for afterwards.

“It would have been very silly to ignore.”

The gaffer: Harps’ boss Ollie Horgan.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

It turned out to be the best decision of his young life. There were no bright lights or big cities for the adventures ahead. 

Darkness falls early in the midst of the North Georgia Mountains, something Saul now knows all about having pitched up there to begin his stint at Young Harris College.

“The middle of nowhere,” Saul laughs. “It was a bit different than Tottenham but I loved it. It’s so beautiful. I can never do it justice, it’s a special place.”

Saul was there for a year, his next port of call taking him to the cornfields of Forest City, Iowa – home of Winnebago Industries, the United States’ premier motor home company.

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It was in Waldorf University where the Londoner completed his undergraduate degree in exercise science. 

“The middle of nowhere again,” Saul chuckles. “It was different to Georgia but the friendliness of everyone was exactly the same. They took me in and made me feel so welcome.” 

Saul was on the move again after another couple of years, this time completing his studies by completing his Masters in Public Health at Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina.

“I never dreamed of seeing these type of places and making friends for life in places I never knew about.”

A move to professional outfit Greenville Triumph in South Carolina last year was the beginning of his journey to Ballybofey. He just didn’t realise it at the time.

Playing in the USL League One – three tiers below MLS – Saul forged a relationship with former St Patrick’s Athletic and Galway United striker Jake Keegan. “He told me all about the League of Ireland and the different clubs,” Saul reveals. 

“So I knew about different things. At Christmas time I was coming home to England and I wasn’t sure if I would be signing back with Greenville. And that is when I got the call from Ollie telling me he wanted me to come over.”

Another call, another twist of fate.

Jake Keegan during his St Pat’s days.

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Saul is talking about Ollie Horgan, his new Finn Harps manager. “There were no promises and there was no nonsense from Ollie. He told me he had been made aware of me and knew me as a player.

“He basically said to come over and see if I was good enough. He is a great guy. I went with my gut feeling on it and since coming over here it has felt right. I feel part of the community and the players have been brilliant to me, helping me to settle.

“I have to thank Jake Keegan because he has played a big part in me being here. Now I want to enjoy my football. I have a trick in my locker and I know where the goal is. If I get a chance in the box I believe I will score it.”

The journey continues for Cameron Saul.

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