It’s official, we’re all coming down with a serios case of the Keeling Madness. Most likely brought on by inhaling entirely too much asbestos, if there is such a thing, the results of the weekend have meant that if Sunderland were to beat our midweek title-contenders-turned-bottlers, we will be within an outrageous shout of going up automatically on the last day, if about 17 other games go our way.
Rotherham United, the perennial yo-yo team of the Championship/League One. The Fulham of the next level down. The Second and Third tier version of which ever forgettable so and sos keep getting promoted from League Two only to go back down again immediately, etc.
Back near the start of the season, Lee Johnson served up an early example of why we were not going to get promoted under his management, his Sunderland side back battered 5-1, in the third level of English football. Since then, Rotherham have both stormed the league, and then just as quickly, absolutely shanked it.
Will the Yorkshiremen get their act together at a typically annoying time, or will Sunderland return the favour from earlier in the season and set up an absurdly tense final day? These are completely irrelevant questions, because what I want to know is: who played for both end-of-season implosion experts?
That’s right, your friend and mine, the only professional goalkeeper who appears to have been born without joints, it’s Lee Camp time. Camp’s long, silly career began way back in 2002 with Derby County, where he’d play 89 times before disappointing leaving for QPR in 2007 before Derby had the chance to break Sunderland’s record points low in the Premier League. Just 18 short, unremarkable months in the capital was enough for him though, as he moved back to the Midlands with Nottingham Forest in 2009 after a short loan spell.
At Forest, Camp defied what we all now know to be logic, where he managed to win the club’s player of the year award, as well as being named in the PFA Team of the Year that same season. Incredible stuff. Eventually though, Camp left for the big time, with Premier League relegation worriers Norwich City in January 2013. Camp’s debut in the top flight actually came against Sunderland on 17th March 2013, being subbed on after Norwich’s first choice keeper, Mark Bunn, hilariously handled the ball outside the box.
All in all, Camp’s Premier League appearances would read three appearances, no wins and no clean sheets. That includes his stay at West Brom in the following season (13/14). Camp would eventually find himself first choice again at Bournemouth in summer 2013, and although injury, and presumably talent, would keep him out of the starting XI in his second season, he was part of the Cherries squad which won promotion from the Championship as league winners in 2015.
A two-year stay with Neil Warnock and co followed as in summer 2015, our hero joined Rotherham. First choice in his first year, making 41 appearances, everything looked rosy as it appeared the nomadic Northern Ireland international (somehow), but unfortunately, injury disrupted his 16/17 season, limiting him to 18 games and a 24th place finish with the Millers as they returned to League One for the 514th time in their history. Camp was picked up by Cardiff that summer (hello again, Neil Warnock), who then saw sense and loaned him out to Chris Coleman’s Sunderland in January 2018.
It might shock you to know that Lee Camp only made 12 appearances in a Sunderland shirt, as we held our very own Poppadom Hands Championship in our entirely too televised exit from the Championship. What is probably less surprising is that we only won one of those games, the confusing 4-1 battering dealt out to Derby County. Camp managed to concede 20 goals in those 12 appearances, and kept zero clean sheets in the process.
Whilst I’m not saying he was entirely to blame for each one of those goals, I am heavily suggesting that he was entirely to blame for around 99% of them. Down we went, with goalkeeping errors being responsible for entirely too many dropped points, and more annoyingly, Camp got himself another Championship gig with Birmingham City, where the fans inexplicably tolerated him.
As his career has begun winding down (he’s somehow only 37, which is confusing given he was 45 when he signed for us), Camp took in short stays at Coventry (no appearances), Swindon (11 appearances, relegated), Clitheroe in the NPL Division One West league, before firing up the insanity once more in March 2022 by joining forces with Phil Parkinson and Callum McFadzean at Wrexham. Undoubtedly one of the worst players to ever make an appearance for Sunderland, Lee Camp, the people’s champion.
Unfairly forgotten somewhat in Sunderland’s recent past, our second specimen today is Welsh international midfielder Carl Robinson. Starting out with Wolves, he made over 150 appearances in the Black Country between 1995 and 2002, before joining Portsmouth just in time to be part of their First Division promotion winning team. However, he only managed to make a single outing in the Premier League, so a series of loans was on the menu, first with Sheff Wed and Walsall, but then, in September 2003, he headed to Rotherham.
In typical Carl Robinson fashion, he made 14 solid but seemingly forgettable appearances in the second tier, before being recalled, playing a couple of cup games for Pompey and then enduring a 5 game spell on loan at Sheffield United. Arguably responsible for the “can only play for two clubs in a single season rule”, Robinson was then shifted out to his fourth club of the campaign in March 2004 when he finally ended up at Sunderland on loan.
Robinson was an unsung talent in Mick McCarthy’s teams, stabilising the midfield and providing a foundation for the brighter attacking starts of our Championship winning team to flourish – after we lost to Crystal Palace in the play-offs first, of course. Signing permanently in summer 2004, Robinson would only spend just over 18 months as a Sunderland player, making 52 league appearances in total, scoring 5 goals in the process, one of which on the final day, the winner against Stoke to confirm us as Champions. Lovely stuff.
A one year stay at Norwich followed, before Robinson set off to the MLS with Toronto and was voted MVP in his first season, which is apparently a thing. In 2010, he was on the move again, still in the MLS this time with New York Red Bulls before calling it a day in 2011. Since retiring, Robinson has been a relatively successful manager, first back in Canada with Vancouver Whitecaps, then over in Australia with Newcastle Jets and Wester Syndey Wanderers (great name), although he has been out of work since January 2022. Mental career, I expect him to manage in Paraguay soon.