KEVIN CAMPBELL says Nottingham Forest’s nearly 25-year banishment from the Premier League was to sell HIM against his will.
Forest just returned from relegation with the 1998 championship, with Campbell and Pierre van Hooijdonk scoring 57 goals between them.
But the new owners of the club decided to move Campbell to Turkish side Trabzonspor, as well as club captain Colin Cooper to Middlesbrough.
It proved to be a disastrous move that caused discord in the dressing room.
Last Forest of the top flight – and hasn’t returned since.
Campbell, 51, lamented to SunSport: “One million percent is the reason why Forest has been out of the Premier League for so long.
“If you have a place in the Premier League, you have to defend it for life because it’s very difficult to get there.
“We won the championship, we came back and the club decided to shoot themselves in the foot.
“We had something in the dressing room that was special, to be able to come back from disappointment and go on, win championships… you add that and I think you’re in a real position. the good.
“But they decided to pull it all out. They brought in players who had never played in the Premier League.
“It’s a mess. I’m looking at it from a distance and I’m cringing. It still doesn’t make any sense to me.”
The story of Campbell’s move to Turkey is also a story. After such a prolific season, the striker is looking forward to a revival and has been promised a new contract by Dave ‘Harry’ Bassett.
Campbell was preparing for a pre-season tour of Scandinavia the day after training at the City Ground when about 50 Trabzonspor fans suddenly swarmed outside the stadium.
News of his move has apparently gone viral in Turkey, and supporters claim it’s a done deal.
However, Campbell was not informed of anything and felt confused.
“We could hear them singing songs in Turkish,” he explains. I think they might be playing Notts County!
“I didn’t have a call – no one informed me of what was happening.
“Later, when I returned home to pack up, I got a call saying they had accepted an offer from a Turkish team called Trabzonspor and it was in my best interest. No, I haven’t heard of them.
“My initial thought was clearly that the club was cashing in and I might as well go listen because now there’s writing on the wall. If I say I’m not going, they’ll make my life very difficult.”
That reaction now seems strange to today’s power players.
But Campbell has seen others make their lives miserable by not going with the club’s wishes, such as Kenny Sansom in his old Arsenal outfit.
Campbell has agreed to the move and has indeed enjoyed his time in Turkey immensely, noting that they have been ahead of England with their approach to sport science and match preparation.
However, attacking partner Van Hooijdonk was furious, who went on strike.
Campbell recalls: “I was at the airport and was about to board the plane when the phone rang. That’s Pierre.
“He was angry. He was saying, ‘What’s going on, tell me, son’. I said that I had just boarded a flight, that I would talk to him when I got to Istanbul.
“You should have heard the cursing coming from the phone!
“When I arrived in Istanbul, we had a conversation. I told him they said it was in my best interest that I was not welcome at the club.
“He said he was not coming back. I said, ‘Come on, Pierre, don’t be silly’.
“He said, ‘No, they’ve divided us, they’ve split this team, you’re an important player, I’m not going back’.
“I thought he was messing around but lo and behold, he’s on strike!”
It was a sad end to what could have been a long-term partnership – a foundation on which to become a leading pillar of Forest.
Instead, the two-time European Cup winners were even relegated to League One for three seasons.
And they are still a few light years away from today’s FA Cup rivals and Campbell’s previous team Arsenal.
That is despite finishing 9th and 26 points ahead of the Gunners in 1995, when Blackburn won the title.
When asked how Forest has been over the years, Campbell replied: “It’s tinged with disappointment.
“There have been false moments, a lot of heartache. I feel for the fans, they don’t deserve what happened.
“It just goes to show that when you’ve got something and you let it go, you can’t just pick it up and expect someone else to get the club to where you need it to be.
“Those new owners brought the club back for many years. It’s frustrating because I’ll never leave the Forest.
“I loved my time there and still think about the world of that club.
“That squad has all the fighting qualities, the talent, everything. It’s very difficult to have that companionship, camaraderie, and know-how in the building at the same time.
“Now, Nottingham Forest has spent all its time trying to get back to the Promised Land.”
Campbell thinks the combination of great beauties against today’s rivals Arsenal need to win a title like FA Cup to move to the next level.
The Gunners won the world’s oldest football tournament just 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 excited about the young talent at Mikel Artetaof processing.
“These young people are special,” he said. We may not see them really develop until a couple of seasons but that’s exciting. The foundations have been established now.
“The key thing is that they have a taste of success because that’s the catalyst that drives you forward. It makes you learn how to win.
“These players have to play, push the limits and learn to win and be under pressure. Once they do that, then they move on to the next level.”
Meanwhile, Campbell thinks the Gunners need to sign two new strikers to make up for the absences of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah.
He added: “I think Arsenal really need to address that. Dusan Vlahovic and Alexander Isak were mentioned.
“Dominic Calvert-Lewin has also been mentioned but Everton need him. If Everton knock him out, who will they replace him with? That’s the hard part. ”
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https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/17263369/arsenal-nottingham-forest-kevin-campbell-fa-cup/ Ex-Arsenal striker Kevin Campbell thinks Nottingham Forest’s sale of him led to their 25-year exile