x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Fear of relegation fuels Blackpool's DJ Campbell

The striker has suffered the dreaded drop twice previously and does not want to go through the trauma of making it a hat-trick.

Blackpool's DJ Campbell, front, has been relegated twice in his career and warned his teammates of the painful consequences.
Blackpool's DJ Campbell, front, has been relegated twice in his career and warned his teammates of the painful consequences.

DJ Campbell, Blackpool's top scorer, is aiming to avoid registering the worst hat-trick of his life today.

Campbell has experienced the trauma of relegation twice before, at Birmingham City and Leicester City.

He is still bothered by memories of the loss, and memories of people he knew well who were suddenly out of a job.

So, all week in the build-up to Blackpool's date today at Manchester United, Campbell has been trying to impress upon his teammates how horrible life will be if they fail in their survival quest.

"I have been relegated twice already and I really have no desire to experience that again," the 29 year old said. "At Birmingham it was like someone had torn my heart out.

"But that is not the worst of it. The big problem with these situations is that you see what affect it has on the people who really care about your club."

As a fan himself, he said, he knows how hard it is.

"In the immediate aftermath you can see fans and staff crying. It is absolutely gut-wrenching," he said. "You ask yourself what it means. At Birmingham, a lot of people that I liked and spoke to a lot, lost their jobs.

"The responsibility is huge, which is what I have been trying to impress on the guys all week."

United granted a request for Blackpool to have a look at the surroundings for today's game. Blackpool hope to become only the second side this season, after West Brom, to avoid defeat at Old Trafford.

With five teams involved in the relegation picture today, separated by just one point, there are 81 different permutations as to which sides could go down.

Blackpool, currently third bottom, know they need at least a point today.

"We are still in with a shout of staying up, which in itself has proved a lot of people wrong," he said.

United will collect their Premier League trophy today, and goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar will say goodbye to the Premier League as he plays his final domestic game before retirement.

After rejecting numerous pleas from his teammates to abandon his retirement plans, Van der Sar is scheduled to be handed the captain's armband by Sir Alex Ferguson.

Not normally prone to moments of emotion, the 40 year old did not even start thinking about the prospect of retirement until a couple of weeks ago, he said.

However, the enormity of life away from the stresses and strains of training and matches has started to sink in, making today's occasion all the more difficult.

"I am not looking forward to it," Van der Sar said. "It is a sad moment. You don't look forward to those. I just have to make the best of it.

"It is only in the last two weeks that it has really sunk in that I am running out of time.

"Hopefully though, the memories I will get this weekend I will be able to keep with me for the rest of my life."

Other Premier League matches

Stoke City v Wigan Athletic

Roberto Martinez, the Wigan manager, is determined to repay Dave Whelan’s faith by keeping the owner’s Premier League dream alive. Martinez said of Whelan, 74, who has overseen Wigan’s rise from the fourth tier: “He represents everything we are. He is a really inspirational figure and the reason for a our dream of being in the Premier League. We need to make sure we don’t let him down.” Martinez has no injury concerns while Tony Pulis has promised to field a strong Stoke side.

Tottenham Hotspur v Birmingham City

Lifelong Birmingham fan Craig Gardner admits he would swap his Carling Cup winners medal for Premier League safety, ahead of today’s clash with Tottenham at White Hart Lane. “The Carling Cup win [over Arsenal] was fantastic,” he said. “But this game is our career, it’s bigger than the cup final.” Birmingham have defender Liam Ridgewell back after a ban and striker Cameron Jerome should recover from his ankle injury. Rafael van der Vaart is a doubt for the home side.

Blackburn Rovers v Wolverhampton Wanderers

Blackburn’s Spanish defender Michel Salgado claims there should be no big celebrations if Rovers avoid the drop today because they should not have allowed themselves to be dragged into the relegation scrap in the first place. “Maybe it was our mistake,” he said. “When we were in seventh place everybody was talking about getting into Europe and maybe we relaxed a little bit.” Blackburn have no fresh injury problems, while Wolves’ only major worry concerns striker Kevin Doyle.

Liverpool v Aston Villa

Liverpool can still claim a Europa League spot with fifth place if Tottenham slip up at home to Birmingham. Raul Meireles returns to the squad after missing last week’s defeat to Spurs. The Portugal midfielder’s recovery from injury may cost £35 million (Dh210,) striker Andy Carroll his starting place as it would allow manager Kenny Dalglish to reunite Dirk Kuyt with Luis Suarez. Striker Darren Bent will be looking to take his goal tally with Villa into double figures since moving from Sunderland.

Everton v Chelsea

Chelsea are without Yossi Benayoun and Ramires in a game that could be Carlo Ancelotti’s last as manager. Ancelotti appears set to lose his job next week at a meeting with the club’s hierarchy. But Ancelotti had no complaints about the support he has had from above. “Until the last day I work here, the club have given me the support,” he said. “If they want to change, it’s their decision.” Midfielder Tim Cahill is a doubt for Everton and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov is suspended.

Fulham v Arsenal

Jack Wilshere wants to contribute more goals for Arsenal next season. “My target at the start was to play 20-25 games,” Wilshere, 19, told the Arsenal magazine. “Next year I will set myself new targets and one of them will be to score more goals. I have only scored twice this season and that is not enough.” Arsenal, who need Manchester City to slip up at Bolton to clinch third place, could be without the likes of Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri. Moussa Dembele misses out for Fulham.

Newcastle United v West Bromwich Albion

Steven Taylor, the Newcastle defender, has warned first-choice centre-backs Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson he has no intention of sitting on the bench next season, after missing several months of the campaign due to injury. “I have always had competition,” Taylor, 25, said. “I remember seeing there were seven centre-halves in front of me at the time. I got past all of them and that’s where I want to be now.” Visitors West Brom are without top scorer Peter Odemwingie because of an ankle injury.

West Ham United v Sunderland

West Ham’s caretaker manager, Kevin Keen, has refuted suggestions the players did not care enough about the club’s fate, after the club was relegated last week. “It’s a myth that certain people don’t care,” said Keen. “Foreign players get tainted with that mainly, it is totally untrue. The scenes in the dressing room [after defeat to Wigan last week] were as fans would hope. There was genuine disappointment.” Sunderland could have striker Asamoah Gyan and Anton Ferdinand back after injury.