This time last year, Birmingham City were propping up the Championship. Lee Camp had recently joined Sunderland on loan from Cardiff City. While Garry Monk eventually took the reigns and led Blues to safety, Sunderland sunk into the third tier and Cardiff climbed into the Premier League.
At the age of 33, Camp was chucked onto the football scrapheap. Surplus to requirements in the Welsh capital and awarded the title of ‘the worst goalkeeper in the history of Sunderland AFC’ by angry fans in Wearside.
In the second city, Garry Monk was fighting an internal battle of his own. After instructing David Stockdale and Tomasz Kuszczak to seek pastures new, the club were placed under a transfer embargo. Conal Trueman, a young academy product, was unexpectedly propelled up the pecking order.
After overcoming the transfer embargo, Monk was given the green light to sign five new players within strict parameters set out by the EFL.
Lee Camp was one of four new recruits.
His unveiling was met with vociferous condemnation. Social media was rife with disbelieving fans quick to write-off an individual before they had even held the royal blue scarf aloft. Some sections of fans were sucked into the vacuum of claptrap dictating that what Sunderland fans say must be correct, such was their dogmatic determination to slam the message home.
Without submitting to the nonsense, Camp didn’t cover himself in glory during his spell at the Stadium of Light. But name one player to the contrary…
Don’t judge too harshly, for if your weaknesses were to be placed under your footsteps, most likely you would stumble and fall as well.
Like every goalkeeper, at times, Camp has the tendency to make life difficult for himself. In the early stages of the season, steady performances were closely followed by a mistake – examples evident at Nottingham Forest and Brentford. Yet, even the most sceptical judge would admit that he hasn’t been the car crash some expected.
His recent performances have been impressive. During a match at Ewood Park, Blues trailed 2-0. Camp pulled off an outstanding save which prevented the game becoming a non-contest. Minutes later, Blues were level with two quick-fire goals.
On Boxing Day, Stoke City were denied by Camp on three occasions before Blues opened the scoring in a match they went on to win 2-0.
Camp had his moments earlier in the season too. His top drawer save right at the death ensured Blues picked up their first win of the season at league leaders Leeds United. And he pulled off a string of saves during the draw against West Brom at St. Andrews.
“With Camp in goal, you are certs for relegation”. That was the message.
We’ve just passed the halfway point of the season and Blues are sitting pretty in 7th. Juke and Che Adams have carried the goal threat while Camp, assisted by his back four, has kept it tight at the other end with eight clean sheets.
Confidence is a fragile thing. It takes time to gain but it can be lost in a matter of seconds.
Camp hasn’t been perfect but his confidence has grown with every decent performance and every clean sheet. Yes, he has shown himself capable of the odd error. Just like David Stockdale and Tomasz Kuszczak before him. But Camp has contributed to winning points more than he has to losing them.
DISCLAIMER – Please do not point the finger at me or this article in the event of Lee Camp dropping a clanger against Brentford tomorrow.
Follow me on Twitter @wiildey86