My Everton #43: Conversation That Changed Everything - Kevin Campbell

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I can still remember the conversation like it was yesterday. 

I was in Turkey, things weren’t going great for me out there, and my agent said there were five clubs interested in taking me on loan.

He only got to number one. As soon as he said ‘Everton’, I stopped him immediately and said, ‘That’s my team’.

I didn’t want to hear about any of the others. I just felt that connection, and it probably goes back to my first experience at Goodison Park.

I made my debut for Arsenal at Goodison back in 1988. Everton were one of the top teams at the time, they had that great side with Southall, Ratcliffe, Reid, Sharp, Sheedy and all the rest… I feel lucky to have been on the same pitch as them.

I always remember after the game, going outside to the coach and speaking to Evertonians. I just got that feeling, ‘This is a proper football club’.

I signed in March 1999. We had eight games left in the season and the manager, the late, great Walter Smith, said he needed someone with experience up top.

Walter was an absolute class act. I was so shocked and devastated when he passed away. For him to get me to Everton… I think some of the fans had maybe forgotten who I was. It takes a strong manager to stick to his principles and he came for me. I will be eternally grateful to him for bringing me to this incredible club.

We lost the first two games of my time here, but then we just went on a tear! I scored nine goals in five matches and we secured our Premier League status with a game to spare.

People have asked me where that period ranks in my career and the answer is simple: That was the best.

It all came to a crescendo in that last home game of the season against West Ham when we beat them 6-0 and I got a hat-trick. For fan emotion and atmosphere, that’s the standout match of my life.

With 15 minutes to go, Evertonians were running onto the pitch to celebrate and kissing the ground. It meant so much to them. That’s an Everton I will never, ever forget.

It still feels surreal sometimes when I’ll pitch up at Goodison and the fans are all going crazy! There are videos of me walking down the street and them all singing ‘Super Kev!’.

Their love has touched me for so many years and, let me tell you, that love goes both ways.

I’m so blessed to have played for this great football club and for these great fans.

I became the first black captain of Everton, an honour no-one will ever be able to take away from me.

When Walter first asked me, I thought it was a wind-up. I said, ‘Davie Weir is captain, do you mean vice-captain?’ and the gaffer replied, ‘No, I want you to have the captaincy’.

I asked what Davie thought about that, and Walter said, ‘He agrees’. If your peers are backing you up, then you’ve got a chance.

It all started to sink in and a big smile came on my face. What a privilege to be captain of this amazing football club.

Kevin Campbell
Evertonians' love has touched me for so many years and, let me tell you, that love goes both ways.

To lead Everton out at Goodison, do the programme notes, be the voice of the squad… It was a responsibility I took very seriously and very personally.

The bond I have with Everton will remain for as long as I live.

My pulse still quickens when I watch the team now, even when I’m trying to be impartial as a pundit! I remember in the 2020/21 season when we won at Anfield, I was buzzing so much that I couldn’t sleep that night!

I absolutely loved it. It was a long time coming after my winning goal there but, my word, it was brilliant.

I’ve played for a lot of teams throughout my career but it’s unique, Everton.

As a collective, the fans and the people inside the Club are so warm and caring.

You should see my face when I’m at Goodison, I have that extra spring in my step and energy! I just love everything about this football club.

Everton will always, always, be in my heart.