Ex-Toon star­let Adam Camp­bell on start­ing anew with Notts County

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

ALAN Shearer. Michael Owen. Gazza. Gian­franco Zola. For a cou­ple of years, Adam Camp­bell couldn’t kick a ball with­out be­ing com­pared to the game’s great­est names.

Pro­lific at youth level, Eng­land hon­ours, a de­but for New­cas­tle at 17. Ac­cord­ing to gaffer Alan Pardew, it was only a mat­ter of time un­til the flame­haired young­ster hit the heights.

“I gave Alex Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain his de­but at 16 at Southamp­ton,” said the cur­rent Palace boss af­ter Camp­bell’s first game in Au­gust 2012.“I did the same with Mark Noble with West Ham, and Jonjo Shelvey at Charl­ton. Adam’s de­but was as good as any of them. If we man­age him prop­erly, he’ll be as good as he wants to be.”


So why, three years on, is the 20-year-old start­ing over at Notts County? Was he over­pres­sured? Mis­man­aged? Never good enough in the first place?

An open, bright and ar­tic­u­late lad from the fa­mous old ship­build­ing sub­urb of Wallsend, Camp­bell speaks with the wis­dom of some­one well be­yond his years.

There is no bit­ter­ness or anger, sim­ply an hon­est anal­y­sis of a dream gone sour, coach­ing fail­ures and a kid un­pre­pared for the ruth­less­ness of top-flight football.

“It wasn’t the hype,” in­sists Camp­bell, who joined County in July.“I couldn’t hon­estly stand here and say be­ing com­pared to Shearer or who­ever had a detri­men­tal ef­fect. I didn’t care.”

Nor does he agree with Toon stal­wart John Carver’s as­sess­ment that he was rushed into the first-team too soon.

“No, it wasn’t that ei­ther,” he says. “It was more the fact that when they dropped me back down into the re­serves, the coaches didn’t ex­plain why.

“No­body said, ‘This is what you’ve done wrong, this is what you need to do to get back’. There was no ‘Cisse’s come back from in­jury’, or ‘We don’t think you’re ready yet’. They just put me in the team for three weeks, took me back out and then ig­nored me.

“If it hap­pened now, I could deal with it. I know I’m only 20 but I’ve kind of been around the game for four years and I now know that’s part of life. I’d knuckle down, push for an an­swer.

“Back then, I was an im­ma­ture, young 17-yearold who knew noth­ing and didn’t know how to deal with it. I was wait­ing for some­one to come and ex­plain, get­ting frus­trated and con­fused.

“It’s not like I’m hold­ing a grudge be­cause I’ve learned a big les­son. Ba­si­cally, I was just a bit too naive. I didn’t know what football was all about and the poli- tics that go on be­hind the scenes.You don’t re­alise ev­ery­one has their own agenda to worry about. Nowa­days I’m more clued up.” Camp­bell’s story is par­tic­u­larly per­ti­nent given the cur­rent state of af­fairs at Coven­try, where New­cas­tle’s 18year-old loan star Adam

Arm- strong has sparkled with five goals from the open­ing three League One games.

The pair are good friends and, with Armstrong now gen­er­at­ing hype of his own, Camp­bell is keen to be the men­tor he never had.

“Me and Armo are good mates,” he adds. “He’s a great lad who’ve I’ve got a lot of time for. We’ve been out golf­ing and gone for a bite to eat a cou­ple of times. If he ever needs any help or guid­ance, I al­ways try to help him out.


“To be hon­est, I think he’s a bit more switched on than I was at 18. He’ll not have a prob­lem. But when I was his age, I re­ally needed some­one like me to share their ex­pe­ri­ences.” Was there no­body to lend an ear or an arm?

“Not re­ally,” in­sists Camp­bell, who also spent time on loan at St Mir­ren and had tri­als with West Brom. “At that time, there weren’t a lot of English play­ers there. Prob­a­bly the clos­est I had to a men­tor was ac­tu­ally Hatem Ben Arfa. He was the only one who would stop back and help.

“It was just lit­tle things, ‘If you’re in this po­si­tion, try to do this’ or ‘Be self­ish – look to get more shots away’ or ‘Next time, take him on, don’t cut back’.

“Rather than com­pletely ig­nor­ing you or go­ing about his own busi­ness, he did ac­tu­ally go out of his way to help young play­ers.

“He got some bad head­lines but fans and peo­ple out­side of the club don’t see the real per­son. At the back end of his New­cas­tle time, Hatem’s head wasn’t right. But I worked with him day in, day out for a yearand-a-half and I can’t speak highly enough of him.”

In typ­i­cal Mike Ash­ley (owner) fash­ion, Camp­bell’s time at New­cas­tle ended shab­bily. “I’d been to the cin­ema,” he re­calls. “And when I came out I had a load of tweets on my phone with peo­ple say­ing ‘Gut­ted for you’ and things like that. That was the Fri­day. On the Mon­day I got a let­ter through the post signed by Lee Charnley (chief ex­ec­u­tive) say­ing I was be­ing re­leased.

“To be fair, you could tell that I wasn’t wanted. I’d come back from a loan at Gateshead and you im­me­di­ately picked up a vibe from the coaches – they know you’re not go­ing to be there next sea­son so no­body’s that in­ter­ested in you.

“In my heart of hearts, I knew it was com­ing. But no­body sat down with me or had a word. I didn’t get a phonecall like Ryan (Tay­lor) and Jonas (Gu­tier­rez).”

Still the harsh lessons kept com­ing; first the hunt for a club, then the bear-pit of a lower league trial.

“At a club like New­cas­tle, you don’t re­ally get a lot of tri­al­ists,” he laughs. “It’s all big names. So when I came to Notts County and there’s like ten of us scrap­ping for a con­tract, you’re think­ing ‘Woah, what’s go­ing on here?’”

Tough­ened by his ex­pe­ri­ences at New­cas­tle, Camp­bell made it through. Now, free of the hype and frus­tra­tion, he is ready for a fresh start un­der mav­er­ick man­ager Ri­cardo Moniz, a for­mer ‘skills coach’ at Tot­ten­ham.


“Work­ing with the gaffer is very dif­fer­ent to any­thing I’ve known be­fore,” he ad­mits.“He’s out on the train­ing pitch for an hour af­ter train­ing telling us how to beat a man, how to cross, how to shoot.

“He’s all about at­tack­ing football, about not tak­ing a back­ward step.Wingers have to go past a man, strik­ers have to get in the box. Mid­field­ers have to fol­low in. As a for­ward, I’m re­ally en­joy­ing work­ing with the man.

“Am I pleased to be out of a big club? Yes and no. I loved play­ing for New­cas­tle. Ev­ery­one wants to play for their home­town club and, be­ing there for so long, it was strange to leave.

“But the way things were, I had to leave. Even if I’d been of­fered another year, it would have been a year of the same treat­ment – no guid­ance, loaned out here, there and ev­ery­where. Then I’m a year older and my ca­reer is slip­ping away. Here I get to start fresh and hope­fully put some of my ex­pe­ri­ence to good use.”

AD­VICE: Hatem Ben Arfa helped Camp­bell

LEFT: Adam Armstrong cel­e­brates scor­ing for Coven­try

RIGHT: Notts County boss Ri­cardo Moniz wants his side to play pos­i­tive, at­tack­ing football

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