Adam Brabbin on one of his heroes, Ivan Campo
Much to my own disappointment in a younger version of myself, who had held off the infectious bite of the football bug until the age of thirteen, I arrived at the Reebok too late to see the much loved Gudni Bergsson`s reign as captain. I have no clear or distinct recollection of the commanding Icelandic defender who lifted us to promotion as a solid figure in an otherwise suspect defence, and this is a great cause of regret for me personally because I feel that had Bergsson been my first concrete memory as a Wanderer then he would undoubtedly be the focus of my appreciation.
As it stands though, that dubious honour is bestowed upon the greatest and most influential midfielder I`ve ever been lucky enough to see ply his trade in the flesh – Ivan Campo. The Spaniard came into the side at the time that I first came to love watching football, and it`s not inconceivable to think that he played a huge part in first capturing both my attention and my imagination when it came to believing what could be possible on a football pitch. A giant of the game, and such a distinctive figure. As a curly haired youngster it was impossible for me not to be captivated by the mop of black hair floating and bobbing around the field, spraying the ball long and short as its owner commanded a God-like presence in his seat between midfield and defence.
Even to this day we talk about players that we hope are able to fill the ‘Campo role`, but none so far have come close.
I once walked past Campo, and mistook him for a tramp. It was an afternoon in Manchester of 2005 or 2006, and my family and I were walking down an alley whereupon I spotted a dishevelled looking man in a long brown coat standing in a doorway. Resisting the urge to check my pockets for change or bat away any attempts made at an offer of the Big Issue, I walked silently past the man only to see him take from his pockets a set of car keys. I soon realised my mistake when the man`s companion came out from the now blindingly apparent high end restaurant, a vision of glamour and wealth, coupling arms they made their way across the street, into their Lamborghini, and away in a flash of distinctly un-homeless style and panache.
This encounter, for me, was Campo personified – unfathomably stylish and exciting, and at the same time in an environment that must have seemed wholly alien to him.
The day that Ivan Campo was given the cold shoulder, was the day that solidified my disdain for Gary Megson. It wasn`t the constant berating of the fans, the miserable football, or even his dislikeable persona that did it for me – it was the way in which he unceremoniously knocked a football icon from his plinth, without so much as an acknowledgment of what he had meant to the club, or that he had helped light the beacon for Bolton as a club that could be appealing to top, international superstars? Galácticos.
Campo was everything that I loved about the club between 2003 and 2008, and I still have his open letter to the fans that he took the time to write and thank us for the years of support. A class act and an even classier footballer, I am saddened by the thought that we may never see his like at the club again.
Thanks very much to Adam Brabbin for this post. He’s new to the writing team here. If you’d like to get in touch then email me firstname.lastname@example.org