RIP, Kevin Campbell

Everyone at Everton Football Club is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of the Club’s most popular and much-loved former strikers, Kevin Campbell, at the age of 54.

Not just a true Goodison Park hero and huge fans’ favourite, Kevin was the Blues’ first black captain and also an incredible person, as anyone who had the pleasure of meeting him would know.

Everton initially signed Kevin in March 1999 on loan with the team battling to stave off relegation and with manager Walter Smith in need of some guile, experience and goals for his side. Kevin ticked all three boxes, and his impact was immediate.

Despite not making his Blues debut until April, the striker ended the season as Everton’s leading goalscorer – nine goals in a devastating five-game spell doing much to preserve Everton’s top-flight status and earning him the Premier League Player of the Month.

The Goodison faithful had a new hero, the move became permanent, and their idolatry reached new heights in September 1999 when he scored the only goal in a famous Merseyside derby victory at Anfield.

In January 2001, with David Weir out through injury, Smith made Kevin the first black captain of Everton for the Premier League fixture at Coventry City. He skippered the side on many occasions and was always extremely proud to do so.

His last Everton appearance came in January 2005 when a stoppage-time goal from Leon Osman earned three points against Portsmouth.

Kevin played a total of 164 games for the Toffees, scoring 51 goals and he was the Club’s leading marksman in three seasons.

His contribution to Everton Football Club, however, extends way beyond statistics. One of the most popular men to ever wear the royal blue jersey, he remains an icon amongst Evertonians and was the perfect ambassador who always thoroughly enjoyed returning to Goodison Park in a media capacity or to cheer on the Toffees as a fan. 

Kevin was born in Lambeth and started his football journey at Arsenal. He was part of the team that won the FA Youth Cup in 1988 and in the same year, he made his first-team debut against, fittingly, Everton at Goodison Park.

He had loan spells at Leyton Orient and Leicester City before establishing himself in the Gunners side and he went on to be a part of the squad that famously won the First Division title with a 2-0 win against Liverpool at Anfield in 1989.

Later, he forged a fabulous partnership with Ian Wright and they played alongside each other in the 1993 FA Cup final against Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley, and also in the replay which Arsenal eventually won 2-1.  They had earlier done the same in the final of the League Cup against the same opponents.

In 1994 he played for Arsenal in the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup. The Gunners defeated a Parma side that included Gianfranco Zola, Thomas Brolin and Faustino Asprilla.

After more than 200 appearances for Arsenal, Kevin moved to Nottingham Forest in 1995 for a fee of £2.5million.  His three seasons at the City Ground encompassed a relegation from the Premier League and a promotion return, with Kevin ending the triumphant campaign as Forest’s leading goalscorer.

In 1998, Kevin signed for Trabzonspor before joining Everton seven months later, and after his six successful years at Goodison Park, he left to join West Bromwich Albion in 2005 and was again instrumental in helping the Baggies avoid the drop that season. He saw out his professional career with a brief spell at Cardiff City.

He remains the highest uncapped English Premier League goalscorer with 83 for Arsenal, Everton, Nottingham Forest and West Brom.

Kevin was always afforded the warmest of welcomes when he returned to Merseyside – and quite right, too. He was a giant of a man, a fabulous footballer and he will be sorely missed by everyone fortunate enough to know him.

The thoughts of everyone at Everton are with his family at this extremely sad time and we will, of course, pay a suitable tribute when next season kicks off.

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