Fraizer Campbell’s time at Sunderland was a disappointing one for both the player and the club - but not because of anything the player did or for the want of trying, but because of a series of unfortunate issues that stopped any chance he had of proving himself fully.
Blessed with considerable ability, the striker bought from Manchester United struggled to get a consistent run in the team due to an abundance of injuries he sustained.
After a successful loan spell at Hull City in the Championship, the striker joined Steve Bruce’s Sunderland in £6 million deal from Manchester United. His move showed early signs of success when he scored his first goal in the league cup against Birmingham City at the Stadium of Light.
Unfortunately for him, Campell’s move to Sunderland coincided with Darren Bent’s move from Tottenham - where the Londoner scored 24 league goals in his first season at Wearside.
Naturally, this made Bent almost undroppable - with Kenwyne Jones Bruce’s preferred partner up front with him - leaving Campbell second fiddle to Jones and making the majority of his appearances off the bench or from the right wing.
It took until March of 2010 for Campbell to get his first league goal for the club against Bolton Wanderers where he scored after forty seconds. Like London buses - once the first arrived - many followed after with Campbell notching goals against Burnley and Birmingham also.
Just when it appeared Campbell was finding his feet - and form - at the club, he was struck down with a horrendous injury that truly hampered his entire career at the club from that point.
After forcing his way into manager Steve Bruce’s plans, he started the opening match of the new Premier League season, playing the full 90 minutes against Birmingham in a 2–2 draw. He also played the full 90 minutes in Sunderland’s next league outing against West Brom . However, he sustained an ACL injury in Sunderland’s 1–0 win against Manchester City on 29 August 2010, which sidelined him for an expected six months.
It’s a tragedy. But Fraizer will be back. He’s a larger-than-life character. He was just starting to show what he was about. But make no mistake he’ll be back and he’ll be firing again.
By the time he was ready to return in March 2011, Campbell was making up for lost time after missing six months of the season. In preparation for a match against Manchester City in April 2011, he was struck down with a horrendous injury that left him out for almost another year.
So long was the injury that Sunderland were now managed by Martin O’Neill upon his return. This return was against Middlesborough (Jan 2012) in the FA Cup - 500 days since the striker had last played a match for the club.
It was a dream return for him when he came off the bench and scored from a Sunderland counter attack to send the game to a replay. Campbell looked fit, sharp and ready to make up for lost time.
He followed this game up with a spectacular goal against Norwich City where rifled a shot on the volley from outside the box into the top corner in a 3-0 win. These two goals - and the respect he earned for such a long layoff - earned him an international call-up on this day in 2012.
After Fabio Capello’s departure, Campbell’s former Under 21 manager Stuart Pearce had taken over the reigns as England boss on an interim basis. Pearce was a huge fan of Campbell from his younger days and cited his pace as a big factor for the striker earning a call-up to the senior side.
He has huge enthusiasm to run in behind defenders.
I worked with him a few years ago and injury has held him back a little bit. But I talked to Martin O’Neill a few days ago and he spoke very highly of him. His form is good and I think he’ll thrive in this environment.
Thankfully, Campbell got his cap off the bench - replacing Danny Welbeck for the final ten minutes. It was a wonderful return for Fraizer to football having spent so long on the treatment table previously.