Dick Campbell: 'I used to pick my team on Thursday, now you don't know what might happen'

By Thomas DuncanBBC Scotland

Dick Campbell always knew his second season in the Scottish Championship with part-time Arbroath was going to be tough. But he couldn't know just how tough.

"I used to name my team on a Thursday," says the 67-year-old, who has more than 1,300 games under his belt. "I've always done that. But I cannae now because you never know what's going to happen.

"Somebody might be talking to somebody whose next door neighbour was talking to somebody else in the shops and they've got Covid and you've got to sit out for 10 days because you were in their company.

"Someone at Celtic was complaining at no getting a big enough dressing room. You ought to see where we're changing - we're stripping on concourses, under stands!"

While Campbell also colourfully laments the fact that his players - some of whom travel from as far as Ardrossan or Aberdeen - are not allowed to shower after games, and that a good chunk of one of his two training sessions is taken up by testing, the veteran manager is far from dismissive of the protocols.

Indeed, having been diagnosed with kidney cancer 10 years ago, he knows exactly what it is like to fear for your health.

The safety of players and staff in the Championship was thrown into sharp focus last week, when Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager John Robertson suggested commercial contracts were being put first as the top two two divisions continued while the tiers below were suspended.

His comments prompted Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell to write to clubs asking if they wanted to continue, which they all did.

"I'm like John and everyone else. It doesn't sit well with me, [we have] that amount of people dying every day and we're trying to play a game of football," Campbell says.

"My dad always said to me 'it cannae be somebody else all the time'. That's what happened to me when I picked up the cancer. It's the biggest fright you'll ever get.

"But if you reverse it and look at the wellbeing of people - they look forward to a game of football. See come fitba day, it's magnificent. You just get up and get on with it. You just get up in the morning and get the poached eggs and toast on."

'One up front? It's doing my head in'

Getting on with it is just what Campbell has been doing for the last 50 years, while also working alongside twin brother - and assistant manager - Ian in the business.

The game has changed a lot in the half a century since he began playing, and his view is not always for the better. Despite his love for football, a Sunday afternoon spent watching the English Premier League - or Subbuteo as Campbell calls it - is not what it once was. And don't get him started on VAR.

"It worries me, the football that's on the telly the now," he sighs. "The odd time you fall asleep watching it, it's that boring. One up front! What's all that about?

"Right-back to right centre-back, right centre-back to left centre-back, left centre-back to left-back, then back over the other side, into midfield, then back to the back. It drives me off my nut.

"Are you trying to tell me that's the way football should be played? No in my eyes. No chance.

"There's far too much fitba - five games on the telly on a Sunday? It worries me that other people will just go and do something else."

'We're no longer a surprise package'

There is "no chance" of Campbell doing something else, though. He laughs when asked if they'll have to force him from the game before he quits, particularly as he can't even play golf right now given restrictions.

That's just as well for Arbroath, who are currently bottom of the Championship, one point behind Alloa Athletic. Having taken the club from League Two to a fifth-place finish in the second tier last term, Campbell knew things would only get tougher.

They fought back to hold in-form Dundee - inspired by former Liverpool and Scotland playmaker Charlie Adam - to a 1-1 draw on Friday at Gayfield as they look to kickstart a survival bid.

"Charlie Adam's a personal friend of mine," Campbell says. "I sold his dad - I'm that old.

"He's a lovely human being, and lovely player. I'm sure he could've gone somewhere else but he's come up here and he's a big thorn in anybody's backside.

"We're no longer a surprise package. Last year we went to Dundee United, Dundee, Inverness, Ayr, and won or drew. This year I've got full-time teams playing 4-5-1 against us.

"You'll no believe it but we're enjoying it - and my players are. I'm not kidding you, I'm really looking forward to the final two thirds of the season."

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