THE DAY DAVID TOOK ON GOLIATH!
Film recalls when Forest’s Campbell faced the boys from Brazil in 86
IF YOU had the chance to make your full international debut against any opposition in any tournament, chances are that Brazil in the World Cup would be somewhere near the top of your list.
Well, David Campbell actually did it just ten days after turning 21 in 1986 – not a bad belated birthday present.
The midfielder went from being a virtual unknown at Nottingham Forest to playing against the Samba stars on the biggest stage of them all – and now his amazing story has inspired a film.
The gala premiere of ‘Shooting for Socrates’ takes place at the Belfast Film Festival on Friday. The World Cup will be present on the big night as well as most of the Northern Ireland squad of ’86.
It’s a far cry from early in the World Cup year when Campbell was trying to make his mark under the legendary Brian Clough at Forest – and gatecrash Billy Bingham’s squad for Mexico.
He recalled:“Martin O’Neill got injured and there was one place left in the 22. Billy Bingham came to watch me against Arsenal and Manchester City and I scored.
“Then I got called up for Northern Ireland for the last friendly at home before the World Cup against Morocco. I was playing for Forest against Watford on the Monday and the Northern Ireland game was just two days later on the Wednesday.
“Northern Ireland’s John McClelland was playing for Watford and I was up against him. He kicked lumps out of me all night!
“Cloughie said ‘Well done, you can go now’. Then Billy Bingham put me on as sub against Morocco for 30 minutes and I had a stormer.
“I was shattered afterwards, but I felt a lot better when I spoke to Billy. He said they were having a photo-call and recording the song for Mexico ’86 the following day – he said, ‘Why don’t you come along?’”
It was a few weeks later when Campbell got the official call from Bingham to say he was in the squad, but even then he thought it was his pals back home winding him up.
Campbell sat out Northern Ireland’s opening two games against Algeria (drawn 1-1) and Spain (a 2-1 defeat), but then got the nod for the biggest match of all – against Brazil in Guadalajara.
Brazil had the likes of Socrates, Muller, Careca, Branco and Junior in their ranks – and Zico came off the bench! As it is, the favourites triumphed 3-0 with goals from Careca (two) and Josimar.
But Campbell said: “It’s every boy’s dream to play for their country and it doesn’t get much better than making your full debut against the best team in the world.
“I was opposite Socrates in the tunnel before the game. He looked across and must have known it was my debut. He reached for my hand and said, ‘Good luck’. My arse was going already.
“Sunlight was shining down the tunnel and we walked up the steps into a cauldron of noise. It was like something out of Gladiator. There was the heat and altitude, the Brazilians looked impressive in their gold shirts and there we were, white-faced, pasty lads. You can’t breathe and you’re thinking, ‘How are we going to face them’.
“I was playing right-wing and Jimmy Nichol was behind me. I asked him how we were going to play it, if he was going to get up in support and he just said,‘ I don’t think I’ll be doing much overlapping!’
“It was Pat Jennings’ last-ever match and he turned round to me afterwards and said,‘ It’s all downhill from here, it doesn’t get any better than this’. I was at Forest and thought I had the world at my feet, but what true words they were.”
On his return to Forest duty after Mexico ’86 had ended, Campbell was quickly brought down to earth by Clough.
He recalled: “I was lucky enough to play for two gods of football in Billy Bingham and Brian Clough. Cloughie was amazing – you couldn’t get bigheaded with him around. He always called me ‘Irish’ and in pre-season he said, ‘Irish, con- gratulations on playing in the World Cup, but don’t be thinking you’ve cracked it.”
They turned out to be prophetic words because Campbell never really hit the same heights after that. He went on to earn ten caps for his country and played for the likes of Charlton, Bradford and Burnley, but a broken leg ultimately proved too big a blow to fully recover from.
“The surgeon said initially that I wasn’t going to play again, but I did come back,” he said. “The problem was that every time I got going, I kept breaking down. I could play, but I didn’t have the strength in my leg and I would be found out.
“In the end it made sense to stop because I had the rest of my life ahead of me. Cloughie had retired early and he’d told me to do my coaching qualifications. In 1995 I
set up a football coaching business. There were the troubles in Northern Ireland and I wanted to help the community. I went to Umbro and said I have an idea for a coaching programme. I wanted to get the ex-internationals involved and really have a massive impact. Within a year they said ‘can we buy you out?’
“This year over one million kids will have attended in 20 years. We’ve also trained young people to be professional coaches. We have people from England and Ireland flying off around the world.”
But it was a journey of his own that sowed the seeds for the unlikely film venture. When he and actress wife Lorraine went to the Cannes Film Festival a few years ago, he got talking to film director James Erskine on a yacht.
The director got interested in Campbell’s football story and the ball was set in motion for the film, written by award-winning writer Marie Jones, that steps into the spotlight on Friday.
Starring John Hannah as Billy Bingham, it tells the tale of a momentous time in Northern Ireland’s football history through the eyes of players, fans and the media.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has given his personal permission for the World Cup to be on show at the premiere. The honour is being made in recognition of Northern Ireland’s Jim Boyce, FIFA’s vice-president who will conclude his term in office in June and who will be guest of honour at the screening.
Campbell is looking forward to getting together with his old team-mates to celebrate their incredible adventure.
The 49-year-old added: “The success was in the team getting there. For such a small country to achieve that in ’82 and ’86 was amazing. I was incredibly proud.”
The film is provisionally set to go on show in UK cinemas on June 12, 29 years to the day since Northern Ireland played Brazil.
TROPHY TIME: David Campbell with the World Cup and a scene from Shooting for Socrates
PROUD: Campbell in his Northern Ireland shirt and, right, the team before the Brazil match
HARD TO STOP: Socrates attempts to get away from Northern Ireland’s Ian Stewart
ON THE BALL: Campbell in his Nottingham Forest days