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Orange County SC’s Cammy Palmer on Rangers FC, his Canadian upbringing, growth as pro

Getting to know promising loanee in exclusive interview.

Courtesy of Orange County SC.

Cammy Palmer was one of the wave of Rangers-associated players to join Orange County SC, but the youngster’s path to the USL Championship club is far from typical.

The 19-year-old has yet to make his first-team debut for the Scottish club, but on loan at OCSC this year, Palmer is seen as a potential star of the future.

In talking exclusively to Angels on Parade recently, Palmer — who is English-born and is a Northern Irish youth international — discussed his background in North America. It turns out he grew up in Canada.

“I grew up in a place called Ajax, just outside Toronto,” Palmer said. “I was about eight months old, we moved there from England, a place called York. I lived there from about eight months until I was about 11. I grew up with two older brothers. One was five years older, one seven years older, and was just used to playing every sport. We had a basketball net, playing basketball in the driveway, getting everyone on the street round, or playing football in the garden in the snow, getting bullied by the other two. Sometimes we played road hockey with some other guys because obviously ice hockey is massive in Canada. We’d go to local parks to baseball, we’d play just whatever was available.”

Did Palmer miss any parts of his childhood in Canada?

“We had a 7-11 and a Tim Horton’s. You’re always so excited, on the way home if your mom or dad was gonna drop by the Tim Horton’s. There’s so much anticipation, maybe they might drop by and get some Timbits. They’re actually quite good because we didn’t get to go every time, which made it a bit better when they stopped by and got us some treats. But obviously you don’t get that much over here which is kind of annoying,” he said, lighthearted.

Palmer moved to Scotland at 11, and he was asked about the evolution in his accent, from Canadian to his current Scottish brogue.

“Because I basically grew up in Canada, I didn’t have any accents before that. And then when I came [from] Canada I remember everyone couldn’t really understand me properly because they speak so fast over in Scotland. I had it for a while and then over time I’m 19 now so let’s just call it for eight years. So you start to pick up things and your voice gets a bit diluted. But I think some of it’s still there but I’m glad I’ve got a mix of both. I’m glad I still got a bit of the Canadian but also got some other ones in there as well.”

Palmer was “discovered” in Canada, and after trialing with Rangers he was offered a spot in the youth system. By last season, he had become captain of the reserve team, winning the Scottish Reserve League title.

“I think when I came to Rangers, I didn’t know an awful lot about it,” Palmer admitted. “I’d heard of them and watched a couple games [over the years] and things but I didn’t really know much about the club. But I think as soon as you come and understand the history and the players and the standard set by everyone that’s played and coached that you realize how big a club it is and how worldwide it’s so well known. I think as you get closer and closer to the first team you understand what it means to people to play for them and the pressures and the levels that players need to play at. It’s obviously good, being around really good players and it’s really tested us, having the best coaches, best players in Scotland.”

After a loan stint at another Scottish side, Partick Thistle, Palmer became one of three players from Rangers’ system, along with Matthew Shiels and Danny Finlayson, to come on loan to Orange County SC this year.

The move is a tangible result of a partnership signed between the two clubs in recent months, and the young trio joins experienced former Rangers players like Harry Forrester and Robbie Kiernan at OCSC this season.

“Obviously if you don’t experience first-team football, when you’re around 18, 19, 20, then sometimes it can be tough to get your name out there because although academy football is great, first teams and other teams don’t really look at how many appearances and goals and stuff you got at youth level, they look at your experience in the first-team environment,” Palmer explained. “We realize how big is to play for Rangers, when we get these loan deals and things. So I think for us it’s just time for us to aim as high as we can with Rangers and we want to be playing in the first team. Although it will take obviously a lot of dedication and work we kind of realize how big it can be. I see some guys over here like Rob [Kiernan] and Harry [Forrester], obviously played for Rangers, and telling us just like how amazing it was, just the highs and lows of it. This is what they passed on. So, it’s definitely helped us to grow a lot.”

Palmer got the start in Orange County’s only game so far this season, a 0-0 draw against El Paso Locomotive on March 6.

“It was great to experience something different to what we experienced before. Obviously, most games have to be played at night round here so that’s bit different than normally when games are getting played in the middle of the day [in Scotland]. Maybe a bit slower pace, because obviously that’s what it’s like here because the heat and I was played where I’m used to playing in Scotland where it’s a really high tempo and the intensity is really high. But a tiny loss of the quality can be a bit lower just because it’s so quick [in Scotland].

“But it was great, just kind of experiencing that and getting used to playing with some guys obviously it’s tough, the first game, to kind of be on the same page as everyone but I think it was a good starting point for not just me but the whole team,” Palmer said.

Orange County SC head coach Braeden Cloutier thought Palmer’s USL Championship debut was a promising one.

“I think it was a good start for him,” he said. “I think he was a little bit taken aback by the level of even El Paso and this league. I think he now realizes the game is a little bit faster than anyone was anticipating. So there’s areas of his game that he needs to work on and he needs to keep fine-tuning, but I think it was a good start for him. I think in the first half I counted three times where he made a really good interception and we ended up getting something out of it.”

While Palmer was expecting to be focused on earning playing time in Orange County, now he must contend with the coronavirus shutdown, like everyone else.

It would be easy to struggle, away from home for the first time and having to deal with a stay-at-home order halfway around the world, but Palmer vowed to stay sharp physically and mentally while waiting for the season to resume.

“Obviously it’s quite tough, because you plan on training and playing loads of games. But I think in football or other things don’t quite go to plan and I think the things that make footballers better and make them the players they are is not when everything’s easy but when things get tough and setbacks come your way. For us, it’s make sure we’re fit, focusing, being professional because it’s so easy to switch off and think, ‘OK, I’ve got time, I can do whatever,’ but these are the kind of moments where you just need to take some time to work on things and to maintain your levels. So we’ve been able to go down, Danny and me, we’ve been able to go down to the park, today we went to the beach, doing some sessions just to make sure we’re keeping in good shape.”

Above all, just as this loan to OCSC was meant to be a growth experience for Palmer, the player says he’s using even this unprecedented time to continue to grow.

“I think we’re just trying to make the most out of a tough situation. Because, obviously, if you just kind of sit about and, you know, wish things were different then nothing’s really gonna change, so I think it’s just important in these times just to look at it positively and just use it to benefit you. So that’s what we’re trying to do, and that’s what the message from home is as well, just stay positive and just know that it’ll help us further on in our careers.”

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