Dean Saunders and Nikola Jerkan were the unfamiliar names on the teamsheet but you would have sworn there was another new player in Forest colours on Saturday. Certainly, the fellow wearing "Campbell" across his shoulders seemed to bear little resemblance to the one who had gone under that name previously. Compared with last season's lumbering heavyweight this was a lean greyhound, quick to reach the ball, quick to pass or shoot. What's more, unlike the old version, this Campbell scored goals: three of them.
Between the 1th minute and the 47th, the former Arsenal striker equalled his Premiership goals tally for the whole of last season. He brought Forest a decisive victory, that reflected their performance, and much pleasure to a manager keen to silence his critics.
It was Campbell's miserable failure last season that raised questions about Frank Clark's judgement, watering the seeds of doubt sown by the failure of the Italian Andrea Silenzi, his pounds 1.8m impulse buy. Between them, these two cost pounds 4.m - half the fee for Stan Collymore - but, even combined, they did not look half the player.
To see Campbell score a hat-trick must have been a relief. "Kevin was a disappointment last season, even taking injuries into account," Clark said. "But he is a strong character and I always believed he would come good. My faith in him did not waver.
"He has worked hard in pre-season and is much fitter. He had great pace as a 17-year-old at Orient, where I first saw him, and I feel he is at last getting it back."
No less encouraging is the impact made by Saunders, newly arrived from Galatasaray. At 2, the Welsh international, bought for pounds 1.6m, might be another high-risk investment but he demonstrated a sure touch, a quick brain and well-tuned instincts, striking up with Campbell a partnership that was instantly effective in a system that did not suffer through the absence of the injured Bryan Roy.
It was instinct, the ability to anticipate his partner's intentions, that enabled Saunders to set up Campbell's first two goals, putting Coventry out of the match before half-time. Campbell made the third himself, creating space with a jink and a shuffle. In each case his finishing was first rate.
Nikola Jerkan, the pounds 1m Croat, brought authority to Forest's defence, a quality absent from Coventry's rearguard on a day when Noel Whelan picked up a foot injury and Gary McAllister a warning of difficult days ahead.
Goals: Campbell (1) 0-1; Campbell (7) 0-2; Campbell (47) 0-.
Coventry City (4-4-2): Ogrizovic; Borrows, Williams, Daish, Burrows; Salako, McAllister, Richardson, O'Neill (Jess, 50); Whelan (Ducros, 50), Dublin. Substitutes not used: Filan (gk), Shaw, Telfer.
Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Crossley; Cooper, Jerkan, Chettle, Pearce; Stone (Gemmill, 75), Haland, Bart-Williams, Woan; Campbell, Saunders (McGregor, 85). Substitutes not used: Fettis (gk), Allen, Lyttle.
Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).
Man of the match: Campbell. Attendance: 19,468.Reuse content