In many ways Frazier Campbell has always trodden the fine line between manufacturing a great career for himself and the long and lonely road from promising youngster to lower league has been.
With the arrival of Louis Saha and Steven Fletcher at the Stadium of Light, the 24-year-old Campbell has found his career straying towards the latter.
Injury setbacks and a lack of goals have seen the Sunderland striker drifting towards the periphery of Martin O’Neil’s squad, even after making his England debut only six months ago.
Campbell’s Sunderland career has been a-typical of a player who has been deemed ‘too good for the Championship but not good enough for the Premier League’. Despite his England call up in March, Campbell has shown very little evidence of performing at the highest level.
His successful loan spells at Royal Antwerp and Hull during his Manchester United days may have shown that Campbell had pace, a good touch and could finish well, but they never conclusively proved that he would develop into a solid Premier League goal scorer.
In many ways Campbell’s biggest mistake came following his season on loan at Hull. Having helped The Tigers gain promotion to the Premier League the centre forward had the opportunity to stay at the KC Stadium under the guarantee of regular first team football.
Campbell decided that he wanted to return to Old Trafford and fight for his place in the first team against the Champions League winning duo of Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney. Yet without any proven track record in the Premier League Campbell was always going to struggle to hold down a first team place.
Despite starting in United’s opening game of the 2008/09 season against Newcastle, Campbell was soon shipped off to Tottenham on a season long loan as part of the deal that sent Dimitar Berbatov to Old Trafford. For Campbell and both Manchester United and Tottenham, this loan deal could have been a good piece of business, offering the striker the Premier League exposure that he so desperately needed.
Campbell’s season at Spurs was frankly a disaster. Apart from a stellar performance in a League Cup game against a second-string Liverpool side, he never really got going at White Hart Lane and subsequently fell out of favour rarely featuring in the final three months of the season.
It was at this point that it was not just Campbell’s Tottenham career that was under threat but any chance that he had breaking into United’s first team. The youngster’s time was up and Ferguson transferred him to Sunderland in July 2009.
In many ways Campbell had too much competition whilst at White Hart Lane, with the likes of Jermain Defoe, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Darren Bent ahead of Campbell in the pecking order the young striker had to step up to a level that he never had performed at before.
Unless Campbell had gone and performed well at Spurs it was unlikely that he would have broken through at Old Trafford. Both Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda emerged as better prospects from the United youth academy, making Campbell a redundant feature.
Sunderland is the type of club that Campbell should thrive at should he be the player that he was once billed at Hull. Whilst it is difficult for any player to rediscover their form after a long layoff with injuries, Campbell has had a steady run in the Mackems’ line-up without a significant return.
Going forward he may be better to re-establish himself with a Championship or newly promoted side, where he can restore his confidence and then we may finally know whether Campbell can live up to his promise or he will become another unfulfilled potential.