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Club News


9 November 2015

Pompey mourning former player and manager

Portsmouth Football Club are mourning the death of Bobby Campbell, who sadly passed away on Friday at the age of 78.

Johnny Moore looks at the remarkable contribution he made during three different spells at Fratton Park.

Bobby Campbell lived three separate lives in three different eras at Portsmouth Football Club.

There was Bobby the player, the assistant coach/trainer and, finally, the manager.

His five years as a defensive player from 1961-1966 were hardly sensational. They included 18 months out injured and it was not until two years after signing from his native Liverpool that he became a first team regular.

In that 1963/64 campaign he would play 30 games – almost half of his total number of appearances for the Blues – and net two goals. 

He did, however, have the distinction of being the last player to captain the reserve side before it was controversially scrapped.

In 1966, Bobby bade farewell for nearby Aldershot, but it was a short-lived goodbye and after just two games for the fellow Hampshire club, he was back at Fratton Park as assistant trainer to Gordon Neave.

He was a prominent member of Pompey’s backroom staff until 1971 and, though lined up to take charge of nursery side Waterlooville, Campbell instead joined QPR as coach and then went on to Arsenal.

But his finest – and most memorable years – with the Blues started in 1982, as assistant to Frank Burrows and then manager in his own right.

Four previous years at Fulham, where he had persuaded the charismatic George Best and Rodney Marsh to enjoy a spell by the River Thames, proved his contact pedigree. But far from the expected promotion to Division One, his side were relegated to the third tier and he was sacked after six winless games.

It was hardly a sign that he would have Pompey rocking in the same division, but Campbell would create one of the most entertaining and watchable sides in the club’s history after stepping in when Burrows was sacked.

The rest of the third division were aghast when he signed proven striker Alan Biley from Everton for £100,000 and tempted young star Neil Webb from Reading for an arbitrated fee of £87,500.

Former England international Dave Thomas was also lured and a 4-1 opening day defeat of Sheffield United – in which Biley, Webb and third debutant Ernie Howe all scored – set the pace.

Pompey would storm to the title in 1982/83 with a brand of cavalier soccer rarely seen on the south coast, netting 74 goals and could even afford to miss eight penalties.

It was the first title since 1962 when the Blues had won the same division with Campbell the player.

Though his second season was more problematic, he again made the football world sit up and take notice by signing one of the hottest properties in the game – out of contract Coventry and England under-21 striker Mark Hateley.

Pompey would finish 16th, but the 73 goals they scored eclipsed the total of second-placed Sheffield Wednesday.

A star-studded strike force and leaky defence meant there were plenty of high-scoring games, with the side capable of losing 4-3 at home to Oldham and then winning by the same scoreline at Grimsby.

Hateley and Biley netted 43 goals between them and two hat-tricks within four days by the former –against Cambridge and Grimsby – showed what diamonds Campbell had unearthed.

And with Hateley scoring in England’s 2-0 summer win in Brazil before sealing a £915,000 move to AC Milan, Pompey owed their manager a large debt.

Sadly, though, the Blues had already parted company with Campbell with just one game of the 1983/84 campaign remaining. It might not have lived up to the heights of the previous year, but it was certainly never dull.

Five years later, the Liverpudlian would have the last laugh when he returned to Fratton Park with his promoted Chelsea side on the final day of the season and won 3-2.

He would later become a trusted aide of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, often seen close to the Londoners’ owner at Stamford Bridge.

Just a couple of years ago, Bobby was back in the city, reliving the glory days at the ‘Boys of 83’ dinner organised by the Former Players’ Association.

The number of people in attendance proved that this period of the club’s history burns brightly in fans’ memories.

Bobby Campbell presided over one of Pompey’s golden ages with a flamboyant team that will always be up there with the best.

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