Kevin Campbell: A Legacy Beyond Goals and Trophies

Kevin Campbell: A Legacy Beyond Goals and Trophies

Super Kevin Campbell always seemed so full of life, his death aged 54 has left the entire football community in deep-rooted shock and mourning.

The powerhouse striker has passed on a legacy well beyond goals and trophies, though he acquired both in abundance.

Rarely can any player have been as universally popular with team-mates or adored by every set of fans he played for; Arsenal, Leyton Orient, Leicester City, Nottingham Forest, Trabzonspor, Everton, West Brom and Cardiff.

As former Arsenal team-mate Gus Caesar, also a family friend, put it: ‘You never saw him angry apart from on the football pitch.

‘I’ve been looking at pictures of him today. He is nearly always smiling. Loved by everybody and upset nobody.’

Former Arsenal and Everton striker Kevin Campbell has passed away at the age of 54 on Saturday morning

Campbell was beloved by fans of every one of the clubs he played for during his professional career

Campbell was beloved by fans of every one of the clubs he played for during his professional career

Campbell grew up as an Arsenal fan in south London, sneaking into Highbury free of charge for the last 20 minutes of matches.

Manager George Graham spotted his potential early and fast-tracked him as a teenager into the first-team squad. Caesar revealed: ‘We called him Rambo, he was that strong. He had legs like tree trunks, incredible power in his upper body and he’d just run right over you in training.’

Read More

Ian Wright fights back tears in heartfelt tribute to former team-mate Kevin Campbell

article image

‘Some young players take time to fit in with the senior pros but he seemed part of the gang already.’

Loan spells at Leyton Orient and Leicester were Campbell’s finishing school with his winning personality already in evidence.

He scored nine goals in 16 games at Orient before returning to Arsenal shortly before the end of the season.

‘When we played Wrexham in the play-off final, Kevin came back to cheer us on and was first in the dressing-room to congratulate the boys on winning promotion,’ recalled Orient manager Frank Clark, who later signed him for Nottingham Forest.

It was a similar story at Leicester whose boss David Pleat remembered: ‘The fans chaired him off after the final game and I got a lovely hand-written letter afterwards thanking me for his time at the club. Kevin was a class act.’

His breakthrough year at Arsenal came in 1990/91 when he became a league champion at 21, his goal tally reaching double figures.

The sheer energy and will-to-win meant Arsenal eventually allowed Niall Quinn, Andy Cole and Paul Dickov to move on. Cole was building a decent reputation and Campbell’s generosity of spirit meant he’d attend FA Youth Cup games to cheer and encourage his younger rival.

Campbell's form saw him picked ahead of Alan Smith to partner Wright to win both the FA Cup and League Cup in 1993

Campbell’s form saw him picked ahead of Alan Smith to partner Wright to win both the FA Cup and League Cup in 1993

Wright paid tribute to their bond in an emotional message shared on Saturday afternoon during ITV's Euros coverage

Wright paid tribute to their bond in an emotional message shared on Saturday afternoon during ITV’s Euros coverage

Highbury’s famous North Bank viewed him as one of their own and christened the chant of ‘Super Kevin Campbell’ which stayed for the rest of his career.

The arrival of Ian Wright in September 1991 threatened to restrict Campbell’s playing time but he proved himself a proper team player and the trophies kept rolling in.

He was picked ahead of Alan Smith to partner Wright to win both the FA Cup and League Cup in 1993.

The following year, he deputised for the poorly Paul Merson in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup semi-final against PSG and scored the winner. Wright’s suspension meant he then started in the win against Parma in the final.

Campbell eventually reunited with Clark at Forest in 1995. Though a back injury meant he couldn’t prevent Forest’s relegation from the Premier League, they bounced back first time because of his prolific partnership with Pierre van Hooijdonk.

When Campbell was then sold to Trabzonspor, the Dutchman went on strike in protest.

Turkey was the one disappointing spell in Campbell’s career, but he returned to Everton and became an iconic figure at Goodison between 1999 and 2005.

Chairman Bill Kenwright always referred to him as ‘Super Kev’ and Campbell stayed living in the north-west for the rest of his life.

Campbell became an iconic figure at Goodison Park during his six-year stay on Merseyside

Campbell became an iconic figure at Goodison Park during his six-year stay on Merseyside 

He played alongside a young Wayne Rooney at Goodison and was installed as the captain

He played alongside a young Wayne Rooney at Goodison and was installed as the captain

‘Everton was such welcoming club, I’ll never forget it,’ he said in a later interview for the Liverpool Echo.

‘To be the first black captain is something I will cherish forever. It was a privilege every time I was able to put the armband on. I bump into a lot of football fans and I get remembered more for playing for Everton than I do Arsenal!’

Read More

Kevin Campbell’s heartbreaking last selfie as football mourns death of Arsenal and Everton legend

article image

Though he surprisingly never won an England cap, it’s compensated by his status as a legendary Bluenose – cemented in his first few months at the club when he scored nine goals in five games to save them from relegation and went onto net the derby winner against Liverpool at Anfield. 

West Brom fans were ringing radio stations on Saturday to ensure nobody forgot his role in their Great Escape from relegation in 2005. Campbell played his final match for Cardiff shortly after his 37th birthday after which his warm and likeable personality made him a natural for the media world.

Every week, he’d dress up for ‘Dickie Bow Thursday’ in memory of a friend who had passed – regardless of whether he was working on TV or just going to the shops.

Now it seems scarcely believable we need to pay tribute to him.

A stroke several months ago was compounded by recent kidney problems. His weight plummeted to nine stone, startling hospital visitors like former Arsenal team-mate Mickey Thomas who remembered him in his prime, as strong as an ox.

Even so, friends were convinced he’d come through. On former players’ what’s app groups, Campbell would stay positive and assure them he’d be fine.

There was an outpouring of grief following the news of his death, with an avalanche of messages and tributes from former clubs, team-mates

There was an outpouring of grief following the news of his death, with an avalanche of messages and tributes from former clubs, team-mates 

Alas, the awful truth started to trickle out on Saturday morning, followed by official confirmation from Arsenal and Everton with the permission of his family.

The outpouring of grief was immediate and sincere, with an avalanche of messages and tributes from former clubs, team-mates like Ian Wright and other prominent figures such as Wayne Rooney, who watched him play at Everton.

The footballer who knew him best, Kevin’s son Tyrese who played last season at Stoke City, also said it best: ‘The pain of this is indescribable. As a son you look at your Dad as invincible. He is my idol, the one I wanted to be when I grew up.

‘He was the life and soul of every party and room he blessed, a one in a million person that was loved.’

Comments

No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *