The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Joshua Richards

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.

Mini Messi

“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.”

PIC­TURE: Ju­lian Rus Gar­cia

FRESH CHANCE: John Camp­bell in train­ing at new club Ox­ford United

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