KEVIN CAMPBELL says Nottingham Forest’s near 25-year exile from the Premier League is down to selling HIM against his wishes.
Forest had just bounced back from relegation by winning the Championship in 1998, with Campbell and Pierre van Hooijdonk netting 57 goals between them.
Kevin Campbell believes Nottingham Forest’s decline can be traced back to the club’s owners selling him to Trabzonspor 25 years ago
But the club’s new owners decided to flog Campbell to Turkish side Trabzonspor, as well as club captain Colin Cooper to Middlesbrough.
It proved to be a disastrous move that sparked dressing-room disharmony.
Forest ended up bottom of the top flight — and have not been back since.
Campbell, 51, lamented to SunSport: “One million per cent that was what led to Forest being out of the Premier League for so long.
“If you have possession of a Premier League spot, you have to protect it for dear life because it’s so difficult to get there.
“We won the Championship title, we were back up and the club decided to shoot themselves in the foot.
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“We had something in that dressing room that was special, to be able to bounce back from disappointment and go again, win the Championship… you add that and I think you’re in a really good spot.
“But they decided to pull it all apart. They brought players in who hadn’t played in the Premier League.
“It was a mess. I was looking at it from afar and I was cringing. It still makes no sense to me.”
The story of Campbell’s move to Turkey is quite the tale too. After such a prolific season, the striker was looking forward to life back in the big time and had been promised a new contract by Dave ‘Harry’ Bassett.
Campbell was preparing to go on the pre-season tour to Scandinavia the day after a training session at the City Ground when about 50 Trabzonspor fans suddenly pitched up outside the stadium.
News of his move had clearly broken back in Turkey and the supporters thought it was a done deal.
Yet Campbell had not been informed of anything and was left baffled.
He explained: “We could hear them chanting songs in Turkish. I thought they were probably playing Notts County!
“I’d not had a call — no one had alerted me to what was going on.
“Then when I went home to pack, I got a call saying they had accepted a bid from a Turkish team called Trabzonspor and it was in my best interests to go. No, I hadn’t heard of them.
“My initial thoughts were obviously that the club were cashing in and I might as well go and listen because the writing is on the wall now. If I say I’m not going, then they’re going to make life very difficult for me.”
That reaction might seem strange now given the power players wield today.
But Campbell had seen others have their lives be made a misery by not going along with a club’s wishes, such as Kenny Sansom at his old outfit Arsenal.
Campbell agreed to the move and actually enjoyed his time out in Turkey immensely, commenting that they were ahead of England with their approaches to sport science and match preparation.
Yet the switch infuriated strike partner Van Hooijdonk, who went on strike.
Campbell recalled: “I got to the airport and was just about to board the plane when my phone rang. It was Pierre.
“He was irate. He was saying, ‘What’s going on, speak to me, son’. I said I was just getting on a flight, that I’d speak to him when I got to Istanbul.
“You should have heard the cursing coming down the phone!
“When I got to Istanbul, we had a conversation. I told him they said it was in my best interests to go, that I wasn’t welcome at the club.
“He said he wasn’t going back. I said, ‘Come on, Pierre, don’t be silly’.
“He said, ‘No, they’ve split us up, they’ve broken this team up, you’re an important player, I’m not going back’.
“I thought he was messing around but lo and behold, he went on strike!”
Pierre van Hooijdonk went on strike after learning partner Campbell had been shipped off to Turkey
It was a sad end to what could have been a prolific partnership — a platform to making Forest top-flight mainstays.
Instead the two-time European Cup champions even dropped down to League One for three seasons.
And they remain light years away from today’s FA Cup rivals and Campbell’s previous team Arsenal.
That is despite finishing nine places and 26 points above the Gunners in 1995, when Blackburn won the title.
Asked what it has been like watching Forest these past years, Campbell replied: “It’s tinged with frustration.
“There have been false dawns, a lot of heartache. I feel for the fans, they didn’t deserve what’s happened.
“It just goes to show that when you’re in possession of something and you let it go, you can’t just pick it up and expect somebody else to get the club to where you need to be.
“Those new owners put the club years backwards. It is frustrating because I would never have left Forest.
“I loved my time there and still think the world of that club.
“That squad had all the fighting qualities, the talent, everything. It’s very difficult to get that togetherness, camaraderie and know-how in the building at one time.
“Now it’s taken all this time for Nottingham Forest to try to get back to the Promised Land.”
Campbell reckons the clutch of wonderkids at today’s opponents Arsenal need to win a trophy like the FA Cup to go to the next level.
The Gunners won the world’s oldest football competition only two years ago — but the likes of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli did not feature in the final.
Campbell, who was at Arsenal from 1988 to 1995, is hugely excited about the young talent at Mikel Arteta’s disposal.
He said: “These youngsters are special. We may not see them really flourish until a couple of seasons’ time but it’s exciting. The foundations are set now.
“The key is they have to taste success because that is the catalyst to push you forward. It makes you learn how to win.
“These players have to play, get over the line and learn what it is like to win and be under pressure. Once they do that, then they jump to the next level.”
In the meantime, Campbell feels the Gunners need to sign two new strikers to compensate for the likely exits of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah.
He added: “I think Arsenal really need to address that. Dusan Vlahovic and Alexander Isak have been mentioned.
“Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been mentioned too but Everton need him. If Everton get rid of him, who do they replace him with? That’s the hard part.”
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By: Tom Barclay
Title: Ex-Arsenal striker Kevin Campbell reckons Nottingham Forest selling him led to their 25-year Prem exile
Sourced From: www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/17263369/arsenal-nottingham-forest-kevin-campbell-fa-cup/
Published Date: Sat, 08 Jan 2022 22:30:00 +0000