Football: Campbell enters another cauldron

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The Independent Online
ALAN SHEARER was always going to be Kevin Keegan's first-choice striker, but during a week in which his choices diminished alarmingly, it was ironic that a player once predicted to have a future as England's No 9 should have slipped back into the country to rescue his career.

Kevin Campbell, once described by David Pleat as "the brightest uncut diamond around", is going on loan to far-from-sparkling Everton, where he made his First Division debut for Arsenal 11 years ago. Lambeth born, he developed into a 6ft, 13st natural athlete who, had he not chosen football, could well have joined Linford Christie on the international tracks.

Since his promising early days at Highbury and appearances for the England Under-21s, the career of this affable 29-year-old has been unful-filled. Yet as a partner to the less mobile Alan Smith, his pace was essential to Arsenal's 1991 champions.

For a while his career continued to blossom alongside Ian Wright, but gradually he returned to becoming a useful substitute, or was played in a wide position by George Graham who recalls him as "being a bit too nice for his own good". He had several periods on loan, impressing Frank Clark at Orient, but particularly Pleat at Leicester, who said: "Without a doubt he was the most powerful player I had. The crowds loved him. He pulled the team together. His power was awesome."

His pounds 3m move to Nottingham Forest began promisingly, but after injuries he failed to replace first Nigel Clough then Pierre Van Hooijdonk. However, he said: "My last season at Forest when they got promoted was also my best. I got 23 goals, but it didn't work out." Neither did his transfer to Trabzonspor.

Since he is still, technically, on their books, he prefers not to damn the Turkish club, but clearly he has no intention of returning. Suffice to say, being branded a "cannibal" and "discoloured" by the club president, Mehmet Ali Yilnaz, left him no choice but to "look around". Meanwhile he sent his family back to Britain.

There were other problems, including a period when he was not paid. He made his views felt and from then on relations with the president deteriorated. Accused of being mercenary, he eventually went on a one-man strike before his colleagues persuaded him to rejoin them. His popularity further aggravated some officials.

The looking around came to nothing until, as Campbell said: "I got woken up on Monday morning at about 2.30 by my agent who wanted to know if could I get to Everton quickly. I chased around, packed and got the first flight out. It was flattering to be asked to come back by a great club like Everton. I think I've got what it takes to give the team something extra. From what I've seen there is too much talent for the club to be in the position they are. Football in Turkey is more technical, but the physical game is better for me."

He could make his debut against Liverpool next week alongside a former Forest colleague, Scot Gemmill, who also moved to Goodison last week. Soon after comes a match against Charlton, who may include their new signing Graham Stuart, remembered by Everton fans for saving them from relegation with his late goal against Wimbledon on the last day of the 1993-94 season. That fondness could disappear if he should emphasise that Smith's signings just ahead of the transfer deadline were a sign of desperation.

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