Fraizer Campbell, Antwerp and Spurs
Thu 29 October 2020, 11:32|Tottenham Hotspur
One man to appear in both the colours of tonight's Europa League opposition Royal Antwerp and our own during his career to date is Fraizer Campbell.
A striker with pace to burn, Campbell spent a single season on loan at the Belgian outfit from Manchester United in the 2006/07 season before joining us for a temporary spell from the Red Devils two years later.
Moving to Antwerp at the age of just 18 as part of United’s partnership with the Great Old, the forward flourished in the Flemish region as he fired home 20 times in 31 league games while also experiencing life out on his own in a foreign country for the first time. Another successful loan spell followed the next season for him as he scored 15 times to help Hull City secure an historic first promotion to English football’s top flight – Campbell providing the assist for Dean Windass’ iconic winner in the 2008 Championship Play-Off Final.
That summer, the then 20-year-old arrived in north London for a campaign of change in N17. The former England international made 22 appearances and scored three goals for us that year as we reached the League Cup final and also saw Harry Redknapp begin his four-year tenure as our manager.
After spells at Sunderland, Cardiff City and Crystal Palace, before a return to Hull City, the former United man now finds himself at hometown club Huddersfield Town in the Championship where, now in his 15th season as a professional, he continues to score goals to this day. Ahead of our meeting with his former side Royal Antwerp this evening (5.55pm UK), we caught up with our former forward to talk all things Antwerp and Spurs.
On life in Antwerp...
Fraizer Campbell: “It was a bit crazy, but I had a good time out there. At first, you’re a bit reluctant to go because it’s a completely different country, Belgium. I don’t think I’d even been there before just to visit. So, it was a big step for me to go out there, live out there and play there, but it was one I really enjoyed.
“I had never lived on my own before - I was actually living with three of my mates, my team-mates that I’ve known for years. I went out there when I was 18 years old – it was me, Jonny Evans, Danny Simpson and Darron Gibson – and we all lived in a flat out there. For a lot of us, it was the first time we had lived on our own - we had all lived in digs before that. I had only just started driving, I'd just got my driving licence at the time, so I had only been driving for three months in the UK and then obviously moved out to Belgium and was then driving on the other side of the road! Then cooking for yourself, going to do the weekly shopping and everything... it was carnage!
“But obviously on the other side of that, the football side, you learn about the local derbies, the fans are really passionate – they’d be there for hours before the game and hours after to either cheer you on or have a go at you if you’d done bad. I scored 24 goals in total or something like that during that season. So yes, it went well, really well on the pitch.
“It was a massive life changing-experience but one that I was grateful for - playing men’s football having played youth football up until then and it was a great experience to be out playing in a different country and a different culture learning about both football and life in general, really. We all did pretty well off the back of it. I don’t think it was a coincidence that we all went there. It was the textbook loan deal – you want to go somewhere that you’re going to play football, you can learn a lot, it's going to ready you for whatever is coming ahead, and it certainly did that there.”
On Spurs loan spell...
Fraizer Campbell: "When I came down to Spurs, I was in the England youth team set-up with the Under-21s, and a lot of the lads also in that side like Aaron Lennon, Tom Huddlestone and Jamie O’Hara, they were all from Spurs obviously, so it was nice to come down there and be involved in a massive club and to be involved with players that were my kind of age. You know, it makes life easier when you have people of the same kind of age, same interests around you.
"The Club was going through a bit of a transition at the time. Some of the top players at the time had moved on to other clubs and they had just started to rebuild the squad. You know, you had Luka Modric in there, Gareth Bale was still there before he got a run of games and turned into the player he is today. It was a difficult period to be involved with, but it was the start of something special that has taken Tottenham into the position they are now.
"I’ve got fond memories. I started playing a lot under Juande Ramos, then he left. I played less when Harry Redknapp came in, but I had some great memories of playing in Europe and playing in front of the Spurs fans who were extremely passionate. Obviously I didn’t play as much as I would have liked but, as a learning experience, it was great for the start of my career.
"Spurs is a massive club. I’ve seen pictures of the new training ground which is completely different to the one I was at, so the club has gone in the right direction. I look back and am proud to have been part of such a big club."
On Robbie Keane, Jermain Defoe, Darren Bent and Roman Pavlyuchenko
Fraizer Campbell: "They were key (to my development). In training every day they were always on top form – that always pushed you to be that bit better. I couldn’t rock up as a young lad at just 20 years of age or whatever, just go through the motions and be able to walk in the same shoes as those guys. I had to put it in every day. I’m thankful that I was lucky enough to have those sorts of players, learning from them and taking what I could from them - that has probably helped me stay in football for as long as I have."
On Gareth Bale
Fraizer Campbell: "Football is one of those things where you can look at a player and think, 'he looks like he has all the attributes, he has all the technical ability to do something' and then it never quite happens for them. And then you can see players that you think 'well, he doesn’t look like he’s got what it takes to be up there' but you know, they might get in a team that suits them and with a manager that believes in them and that brings out the best in them, so you can never write anyone off.
"Gareth was always a great trainer, always worked really hard and, as you can see, he has a great physique, and he is a good footballer. He has a good footballing brain, so it was all about timing. Thankfully for him, it's paid off and he has become the fantastic player he is today. I’m really pleased for him because at times, it was difficult for him, like it has been for the majority of footballers. But you know, he is strong minded, he is strong willed, and he has come through the other side, so I’m delighted that he is getting the recognition that he fully deserves."