JOHN’S BACK TO PLEASE HIS SON!
STRIKER John Campbell thought he had blown his chance as a professional when he asked Manchester City to rip up his contract at the age of 18.
But now, aged 26, a heartfelt plea from eight-year-old son Layton, below, has seen him return to full-time football with Oxford.
It was a spate of teasing from the eldest of his three children – a prolific striker in his own right with 160 goals last season for his local team – that convinced Campbell to return to the game he had previously turned his back on.
“He used to say to me ‘dad I’m better than you’ and it was because of him I thought I would give it another go,” said Campbell, who counts Newcastle United and Jarrow Roofing among his broad range of former clubs.
“He said to me ‘dad, try and be a footballer’, so I did. He’s eight. He’s just signed a three-year contract with Sunderland, they call him ‘mini Messi’ and he used to wind me up in front of his friends.
“When I went to Man City at 17 or 18 I thought I was better than anyone there. I didn’t listen to the coaches, I thought I knew more than them, I didn’t want to learn.
“It was the year before the big takeover came, Stuart Pearce was the manager. I asked for my contract to be terminated. Layton had just been born and I wasn’t interested in playing, I just wanted to see him.
“City were so good with me, they paid me six months money, I didn’t want it, and they even offered to give me six weeks off – I guess like paternity leave.
“I wish I had my loaf screwed on a bit back then. You never know what would have happened. I could still be playing for Man City now. I’d love to turn back time, but the good thing that’s come from doing what I did is that I won’t let my son go the same way. If he gets the same chances I did, I’ll make sure he takes them.”
After leaving Manchester City, Campbell was content to play football locally. He sporadically worked as a labourer and spent his weekends turning out for West Auckland Town, Darlington and Jarrow – scoring 24 goals in 16 games for the latter this season.
But with two more mouths to feed, it would appear the penny has finally dropped for Campbell. And he is determined to do all the right things to ensure he succeeds now.
“Five or six clubs were interested in me, but Oxford were the first to come in and once I’d been and met the lads I wasn’t interested in going anywhere else,” he added.
“When I was on my way down for the trial I had lots of different things on my mind, worrying about whether it would work out and if this would be my last chance if I blew it. But I did well in a game against Wolves and they offered me a deal.
“I’ve been at Oxford for a week or so now, and I feel so fit and healthy, it’s amazing really. I’m eating properly, training everyday and, I know I’m 26, but I feel like I’m learning all the time just being in this environment.
“I’d never drink before a game, whatever level I was playing at, but I’d eat kebabs, Chinese takeaways you name it. But now I’m living in digs and I’m being well fed!
“My girlfriend and three kids are still living up in the north east, but if all goes to plan they’ll move down here at the end of the season. For now I’m just delighted with my second, actually more like my fourth, chance.”
FRESH CHANCE: John Campbell in training at new club Oxford United