Friday, 31 August 2012

Alan Campbell

1984 - 86 : Racing Santander (Spain)
1986 - 87 : Logrones (Spain)
1987 - 89 : Berchem (Belgium)

Alan Campbell was an Irish striker. Born in Dublin in 1960, he would earn 3 caps for his country as well as various honours for his boyhood team Shamrock Rovers.

Campbell started playing football with St. Joseph's Boys and joined Rovers in 1978, at the age of 18. His debut came on October 11th of that year in a Leinster Senior Cup tie against St. Francis. The Dubliner scored twice in the 5-1 win.

Over the following six years, the forward would score over 70 senior goals for the Hoops as well as win a League of Ireland winners' medal in 1984. Teaming up with fellow front-man Liam Buckley, he was the league's top scorer in the 1979-80 season with 22 goals. By his 24th birthday, Campbell was regarded as one of the league's finest strikers, and a career abroad beckoned.

However, this career abroad did not take place in England. Campbell is one of the few Irish internationals to have never played any football in England. Instead, in the summer of 1984, with his League medal obtained, Campbell headed off to Spain and the turf of the El Sardinero. In the same summer, his partner up front Liam Buckley would move to Belgium.

He signed for La Liga outfit Racing de Santander. Founded in 1913, Racing play their games at the 22,000 capacity El Sardinero. Racing first reached Spain's top flight in 1929, and spent the following five decades bouncing between the top two divisions, failing to land a single major trophy. Between 1922 and 1929 and again between 1947 and 1949, they were managed by Irishman Patrick O'Connell. In 1984, they were coached by former Spanish international Jose Maria Maruregui who put faith in the young League of Ireland star.

The El Sardinero stadium
The club finished the 1984-85 season in a respectable 11th place. Highlights for the season were holding both Real Madrid and Barcelona to 0-0 home draws and a 5-0 home thrashing of Osasuna. The title was won by Barcelona. For Campbell, it was a fruitful season and a successful first experience of Spanish football. He bagged 9 goals, making him Racing's top scorer for the season. 

While with Racing, Campbell earned all three of his caps for the Republic of Ireland national team. The first of these came in Dublin in February 1985. Against Italy, Campbell came on as a 76th minute substitute for QPR's John Byrne. Ireland lost the match 1-2. He made his first start for Ireland later that month, in a 0-0 friendly draw with Israel in Italy. Then in May of the same year, Campbell started for Ireland in Cork against Spain, a moment which amounted to the highlight of his career. The game was a 0-0 bore draw of the Eoin Hand years, but Campbell had the opportunity to strut his stuff against league rivals on his own turf.

The next season, they finished in 12th, with Campbell netting 6 times. However that summer; after 63 appearances and 15 goals, Campbell was sold to Logrones. Coincidentally, Campbell's former team-mate at Shamrock Rovers, Liam Buckley, would replace him at El Sardinero

Today, Racing de Santander ply their trade in the Segunda Division.

Logrones were a relatively minor force in the world of Spanish soccer. They were established in 1940 following the demise of two former local clubs. The Club failed to reach the first division over the next 46 years. When Campbell signed for them, they were in the Segunda Division and playing home matches at the 16,000 capacity Las Guanas ground.

The 1986-87 Segunda Division is one of the most famous in Spanish football history, as it was the longest football season ever. It contained a full roster of 18 teams, yet had two whole phases. In all, each team would play a mind-boggling total of 78 games in the whole season. Campbell played 32 matches for the club, netting nine goals. 

This would turn out to be a dream season for the club, as they finished as best runners up and were thus promoted to the La Liga for the first time in their history. However, that summer the club were informed of new rules in La Liga, which restricted the number of foreigners who could be on the pitch for a team at any one time, to three. Campbell was told that he may have to spend quite a lot of the season on the bench.

This didn't suit him, so he decided not to stay. He was offered a contract by Scottish giants Glasgow Celtic, however, he rejected the Hoops and decided to move to Belgium. Logrones lasted eight years in La Liga, but collapsed in 2009 due to serious financial problems.

He signed for Berchem Sport, a club based in Antwerp. Berchem were founded in 1908, but have spent a majority of their existence in Belgium's lower leagues. However, for a good period of the 40s, 50s and 60s they had bounced between the two top flights regularly.

In 1987, Berchem had just been relegated from the Belgian First Division, and were keen to bounce back immediately the following year. Campbell was thus brought in to help achieve this goal. However, the season didn't bear fruit, and despite Campbell being the club's top scorer that year, Berchem finished 8th in the Tweede Klasse and failed to gain promotion back to the top flight. Campbell, now aged 29 decided to move in order to revive his career at this crucial stage.

He moved to Scotland where he signed for Premier Division outfit Dundee United. He ended his career in 1992 at Forfar Athletic and still lives in Scotland with his wife and daughters.

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