CAMPS HAILS THE COACHES WHO GUIDED HIM ON PATH
SKIPPER at 21. A total of 93 first-team games. These days, Callum Camps is paraded as the star pupil of Rochdale’s flourishing academy.
But it wasn’t always that way. Like so many teenagers, Camps found the lure of nights out difficult to resist.
Amid icy pitches and early nights, the dream career seemed distant and indistinct.
The missed nights in Manchester were far more real and vivid.
So focused are we on technical skills that this aspect of youth coaching – on the motivation and reassurance required by young footballers – often goes unmentioned.
Yet it’s of critical importance and Camps says that, without the patience and understanding of Dale’s academy staff, he might not be playing today.
“Those coaches are the biggest reason I came through,” explains the midfielder. “When I was younger, my attitude wasn’t the best. Most of the managers used to get annoyed with me.
“As a kid, I just enjoyed playing, like everyone does.
“By the time it gets to Under-16s – or the youth team, when you’d get paid – it felt more serious. You’d still enjoy it, but it wasn’t like playing with my mates.
“Then you see your mates starting to go out at weekends and enjoying themselves.
But you’ve got a game in the morning so you’re at home, thinking about them having fun.
“Even now, I’m happy to admit I still feel like I’m missing out.
“In hindsight, I can stand here and say it was worthwhile.
“But at the time, you’re thinking ‘Is this really going to be worth it?’ There were definitely times when I didn’t want to carry on playing.
“But the coaches here – and my dad – were always saying ‘Come on, keep going, give it a couple of years. You could be in the first team’. Now I am, I’m very grateful.”
That message is a lot harder to convey with a straight face at clubs higher up the ladder. Indeed, while Camps is already a veteran of three seasons, Dale team-mate Mark Kitching has played just six pro games, having emerged from Middlesbrough’s Category One academy only to flounder on the rocks of first-team indifference. The pair are the same age.
“When you see players at bigger teams, most of them leave and go downhill,” said Camps. “I was always aware I’d have a better chance here. My dad and his friends reinforced that.
“When I was 16, I was supposed to be going to Fulham. But I had so many people saying ‘You’d be much better off here, don’t do it’. A few years later I’ve played nearly 100 games.
“Would I advise a young players to reject a big club? You never know, they could be a much better player than me with a great shot at making it.
“So I’d never say ‘What you’re doing is wrong’. I’d just say you’ll have a better chance of being noticed somewhere like Rochdale because the pathways are there.”