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Bobby Campbell: Football sure has changed since my day
Bobby Campbell’s eyes keep drifting to the big screen as he talks.
The words come streaming out in that unique accent but his attention is caught by the replay of one of his record 137 goals in Bradford City colours.
“Look at that pitch we played on,” he says before pausing mid-sentence to admire the finish, a header naturally. “I watch Sky now and you can see every goal from every team.
“Back then, you only saw the ones from the games on telly. They’ve probably only got ten of mine but then football’s changed.
“I came back here when Bradford were in the Premiership and watched (Benito) Carbone. They were paying that lad more in a week than I got in a year and he wasn’t lifting a leg.
“The guy was stealing a living out there. I couldn’t watch it and ended up in the bar.”
Campbell’s style would not have lasted five minutes in the modern game. The cash rewards might appeal – “I’d love it now, I’d be dedicated for at least three years” – but how could he survive the constant trial by social media?
I was amazed to learn that the Northern Irishman is on Facebook for keeping in touch with friends at the Lindley Working Men’s Club in Huddersfield where he works as a steward.
But he does not understand the appeal of Twitter and why players would want to get involved.
“Too many people say things in the heat of the moment, that’s the trouble. As soon as you’ve said it, the words are out.
“Maybe there should be a four-hour delay so you can think about it first. Or why don’t players just talk to each other one to one?
“If you can’t say something nice about somebody, don’t say anything, especially in public because it will always come back to haunt you.
“You see that with the footballers every day. What Terry said was every day stuff with the people I played with.
“I got called all sorts, Irish this, Irish that, someone even called me a Scottish one. I didn’t mind the description but at least let’s get the nationality right!
“Now things are just too quick and straight out there. Something happens and everyone knows about it.
“In my days I could sneak out and have a pint here and there. Now they can’t even go down the local shop for a paper without someone taking a photo.
“But the money they get paid is madness. Frank Lampard should be retiring next year and they’re on about giving him £250,000 a week just to have a holiday in Japan.
“I made more money with the steel fixing than I did playing football. But at least it kept me fit.”
If Campbell sounds slightly bitter, it could not be further from the truth. Watching the McCall Suite at Valley Parade filling up with fans eager to meet their hero, you can see how much it means to him.
A long queue has formed to snap up copies of the book on his career, supporters of all ages waiting for the great man’s signature. Campbell remains close to the club’s heart.
“I used to read everybody else’s book and think ‘I can tell stories just as good as that’. But it caught me very much by surprise after all these years.
“It took nearly three and a half years with Paul (Firth, the author). He gave me one of his books about the fire disaster and asked if we could do one.
“My best friend Steve Conway’s been dead for three years next month and he was due to get the first copy, so it shows how long it’s been. Paul would keep getting stories off me and put it all together.
“There are some good tales but others have been left out. This is the clean version!
“A lot of people still know them anyway but those stories are more for the pub with the lads.”
Campbell’s visits to Valley Parade are limited by his club commitments. He works weekends when they have three football teams involved in local leagues.
“I was last here about three months ago for a walk around. I’d just had a bit of surgery on the leg because it still plays me up even now.
“I thought I’d come down and just reminisce to myself. It was nice to think about the memories.
“Valley Parade is changed now but it’s still a special place. I’m surprised Bradford have gone so far down but it’s the same with all my old clubs.
“You look round and see they’ve got the support to come back. I’d love that to happen.”
The current City team could well emulate the one that Campbell’s goals inspired to promotion 30 years ago. But you don’t need hours of TV footage to prove that they will never find another like him.