Bobby Campbell book review: A lighthearted look at one of Bradford City's biggest characters (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Bobby Campbell book review: A lighthearted look at one of Bradford City's biggest characters
Just don't ask Bobby Campbell about the “sore throat”.
Stuart McCall made that mistake 30 years ago and has never forgotten it.
A naive City apprentice at the time, McCall had heard that distinctive hoarse Belfast growl and offered to fetch something from the chemists.
Campbell (pictured right in his City playing days) promptly lifted him off his feet, telling the terrified 16-year-old: “Who are you, little lad? I always speak like this.”
And so a beautiful friendship began from the unlikeliest circumstance.
The young McCall admired Campbell’s ability to down a pint in one as much as his renowned heading. A man “who didn’t have a gullet” as the then-teenager observed.
McCall’s recollections are among the wealth of stories in They Don’t Make Them Like Him Any More, the book on Campbell written by City fan Paul Firth.
Campbell’s Irish humour shines through in his conversations with the author, who admits it did take time to tune in to that unique voice. He tells it like it is – and there is plenty to tell.
Growing up north of Belfast in Rathcoole, at the time the biggest housing estate in Europe, he learned his trade nodding a ball against the wall of the coal shed for hours on end.
It was no place for soft heads – or faint hearts. His neighbours included Bobby Sands, the notorious hunger striker, who played for the local pub team.
Campbell speaks bluntly about the Troubles and those he knew and lost in the violence. He admits that life in Northern Ireland was very cheap back then.
He forged a career as the classic traditional centre forward and his place as City’s record goalscorer with 137 goals looks unlikely to ever fall.
McCall said he was terrified if a cross wasn’t right on Campbell’s head. Winger Ian Mellor, who had also played with Joe Royle, reckoned he was the best targetman in the business.
Not surprising then that Campbell is quite scathing about his modern-day counterparts, even the international ones.
“Peter Crouch can’t jump and he can’t head the ball. All he can do is touch it, touch it, touch it. I don’t think the guy’s got any neck muscles.”
Firth has written an unashamedly nostalgic wallow into football how it used to be played – and how many of us wish it still was.