Lots has happened between our last meeting with Huddersfield. Both teams have gone dangerously close to the wire thanks to some financial silliness, both have had lovely days out at Wembley, both have experiences incredibly different sides of Alex Pritchard. It’s slightly mad as a Sunderland fan to get your head around the fact that during our absence from the top flight, Huddersfield managed to notch up a two-year stay in the Premier League, but here we are.
For our first competitive meeting since Jon Stead knocked us out the League Cup way back in 2003, I could look at any of the five goalkeepers to have turned out for both Huddersfield and Sunderland, but that would be boring everyone, quit boring everyone! So moving on to a no goalkeepers edition.
There were lots of slightly impressed “hmm” and nodding around Wearside when Sunderland signed young striker Fraizer Campbell from Man Utd in July 2009, as the promising England youth international had completed impressive spells on loan with Royal Antwerp (a classic Man Utd move) and Hull City, as well as a steady season as a squad player with Spurs.
Campbell had raw pace, athleticism and seemingly knew exactly where the goal was for any club that gave him minutes to prove it, so we thought we were on to a winner. He spent his first season in red and white battling the likes of Kenwyne Jones and Darren Bent for a starting position, so understandably he didn’t quite get the game time he may have wanted, and goals were hard to come by until a burst of both in Spring 2010 saw him net 4 in 8, against Bolton, Birmingham, Villa and Burnley.
Everything looked encouraging for Campbell to kick on in his second season, but disaster stuck only three games into the 2010/11 campaign when the forward ruptured his cruciate ligaments at home to Man City. This would be the last we’d see of Campbell that season, and in a cruel twist of fate, upon his return to fitness in April 2011, the injury reoccurred in the build up to another game against Man City. All in all, Campbell wouldn’t kick another ball until January 29th2012, where he came off the bench and scored against Boro in the FA Cup.
The big moment in red and white for Campbell though, was undoubtedly on his league return, some 16 months since his last Premier League outing on 1st February 2012, where he scored an outrageous strike in a 3-0 home win over Norwich. That goal and Campbell’s return to fitness prompted an unexpected call up to the England team, where Campbell achieved his sole international cap as an 80th minute substitute against the Netherlands. Fairy tale stuff indeed.
Campbell’s Sunderland career didn’t last too much longer though, as he was sold to Cardiff in January 2013, which was the start of a mini-journeyman episode for the striker, as he also headed to Crystal Palace and a return to Hull over the next 6 years, each with differing levels of success.
In 2019 Campbell then made the move to his hometown club Huddersfield, following the Terriers’ relegation from the Premier League. The Yorkshire outfit struggled on their return to the second tier, but even heading towards the twilight of he career, Campbell still managed to bag goals against Millwall, Birmingham and…Birmingham again in his debut season, and followed it up with seven in all competitions the following year. In his third and final season as a Terrier, Campbell may not have gotten off the mark in terms of goals, but he was part of the squad that so nearly broke the odds in getting to the play off finals, only denied by Nottingham Forest and a couple of dodgy refereeing decisions.
Now without a club but not officially retired, it looks like that may be the end of the 35 year old’s career, although it could have been nice to get him in for the six weeks we had no strikers, just for sentimental reasons and the fact that he was indeed, a centre forward.
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The strange career of Dan Smith is one for the ages; mainly in that from a professional basis, it was all over within four years and featured one hilarious incident of infamy. A left back by trade, Sunderland-born Smith came through the academy and made his debut against Cheltenham Town in the league cup in September 2005…he was sent off for two bookings. A further cup appearance against Arsenal would follow with no cards to boot.
In a bid to expose him to regular first team football (and perhaps to work out his anger issues), Sunderland sent Smith out on loan to Huddersfield in January 2006. It seemed to work, as Smith managed only one further booking in eight games, helping the Terriers to a run of only one defeat in eight games. Lovely stuff.
With things going from bad to truly catastrophic for Sunderland in that Premier League season of 05/06, caretaker boss Kevin Ball rightly assumed that not much more could go wrong in March, given that we had effectively been down since September, and started playing some of the youth prospects. And so, Dan Smith got to make his three Premier League appearances, the first of which was a start away to Bolton, as we lost 2-0. Standard for that season, really.
The second was, for that season, a major success as we drew 2-2 at Everton, where Jon Stead managed to get his first goal. But the crowning moment in Dan Smith’s short career came on 1st May 2006, when the fullback scythed down Arsenal’s Abou Diaby, fracturing the Frenchman’s ankle in the process. There’s no getting away from it, the tackle was awful, and Smith was incredibly lucky to escape with only a yellow, but the circus really came to town when Arsene Wenger gave his views on the incident after the match…and in the months to follow.
In the immediate aftermath of the game, Wenger described the tackle as “if you do that to a guy in the street you go to jail” and even suggested Arsenal would take up legal advice against Smith. In the following months and years, Wenger would even allude to the frequent injury issues which plagued Diaby’s career as being all down to Smith, which is of course, insane. Smith finally broke his silence on the matter in 2014, with a delicious remark of “The last time I checked, he still earned £60,000 a week while I work full-time in Australia”. Again, lovely stuff.
Smith left Sunderland following our relegation that year, and had brief stints in Scotland with Aberdeen and St. Johnstone before going the way of most academy products of the North East who don’t quite reach the heights, and joined Gateshead. A single season on Tyneside ended in 2009 which sparked a run of local clubs; Blyth Spartans, Chester-le-Street Town, Darlington, Dunston, Seaham Red Star and, bizarrely, Gateshead again, before Smith made that move to Australia. Two spells with amateur teams Holland Park Hawks and Peninsula Power followed before retirement in 2017.
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