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They Played For Both Clubs: Bolton vs Ipswich Town: Ivan Campo

Step forward the true legend, the maverick, the one and only... Ivan Campo!!

I had a quandary while deciding which former Bolton Wanderers star to use as the focus for this particular piece.

Would it be legendary goalkeeper Keith Branagan, who had a short stint with the Tractor Boys after leaving the Whites?

Should I go with South African centre half Mark Fish (he did only play one game for them!) or even Mr Poodle himself Ian Marshall, the all action substitute hero of our promotion back to the big time under Big Sam?

A plethora of worthy options, I'm sure you'll agree. But as I couldn't find (or remember) a player that had made a big impact with both clubs, in the recent past anyway, I plumped for the only player I could honestly write this article about. Step forward the true legend, the maverick, the one and only...
Ivan Campo!

His 17 game spell at Portman Road may have been an undistinguished footnote in a career that took in a Champions League Final with Real Madrid, four Spanish caps and legions of admirers from all corners of Bolton. Crucially, however, it qualifies him for this article. And I bloody love reminiscing about our loveable Spanish clown of yesteryear. His ridiculous afro and his unfathomable, indescribable and undying love for the club and town he adopted as his own.

Ivan Campo Ramos was born on 21st February 1974 in San Sebastián, the capital of the Basque Country in Spain. His youth career as a centre half was spent at Logroñes and Deportivo Alaves before he made his big breakthrough with them in 1993 in the Spanish equivalent of League One. His promising showings, over 45 appearances and 2 goals, tempted Primera Liga giants Valencia to take a gamble on him for a few hundred thousand Peseta's.

He was subsequently loaned out to Real Valladolid during the 1995/96 season to get some much needed experience at a higher level. His performances in 24 games and 2 goals failed to convince the Los Che management that he would make the necessary step up to their first team and so Campo was released. Then he was snapped up by Real Mallorca in the Balearics, who were newly promoted that season to La Liga.

That season in Palma Campo formed an outstanding partnership with Marcelino Elina, later of Newcastle, in a team featuring a young Juan Carlos Valeron as Mallorca belied their relative minnow status to finish a club record high 5th in Spain's top division and qualify for the UEFA Cup.

Fresh from his surprise involvement in the Spanish 1998 World Cup Squad, this rise to prominence and stand-out form the previous season peaked the attention of super club Real Madrid. Indeed, European Cup winning manager Jupp Heynckes turned Ivan Campo Ramos into a Madridista.

Heynckes made Campo Madrid's most expensive and therefore marquee signing, believe it or not, in a summer of relative austerity at the Bernabeu for £2.65 million. Unfortunately for Ivan, five years of frustration ensued as he was pushed in and out of the team with just a solitary goal to his name in sixty appearances as a Los Blancos player.

He understandably struggled to dislodge the classy Ivan Helguera and a certain future Trotters teammate (surely the pinnacle of their careers!); Spanish captain and at the time, incredulously their all time top goalscorer in Fernando Hierro.

The undoubted highlight of his Los Merengues' career was the 2000 Champions League Final which resulted in a convincing 3-0 victory over his old club Valencia.
Fernando Morientes, Steve McManaman and Raul hit the goals as Campo played the full 90 minutes in a back three with Helguera and the now Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka, shutting out Valencia's talented forwards.

Just two short years later in August 2002, Bolton fans came home from work to the news we'd signed a Real Madrid player on loan. One that actually played for their first team.

That it was Campo, a player not many fans were familiar with back then if we're completely honest, mattered not as we embraced his arrival in Horwich. We celebrated wildly on his Premier League debut at home to Liverpool when he slid in bravely to make it 2-2 on 87 minutes, only for a certain Emile Heskey to restore Liverpool's lead less than sixty seconds later.

Campo's contribution helped us maintain our Premier League status for the second season in a row, along with the likes of Fredi Bobic and Youri Djorkaeff. He loved his 31 appearances and 2 goals so much in the famous White shirt that he was determined to return to the Reebok, where he had been made to feel so welcome by his teammates, the fans, and Big Sam. And return he did, when his 'adopted father', as he later referred to Allardyce, gave him a three-year deal.

In signing the paperwork Campo had abandoned arguably the worlds biggest club, who had apparently wanted him to return to their first team squad to fight for his place, all to settle in Bolton, his new spiritual home. Wanderers' love affair with Campo had begun in earnest.

What followed was one hundred and sixty appearances in all competitions, 12 goals and an immeasurable amount of memories in four and a half seasons at The Reebok. From the inauspicious beginnings as an unsuited centre back in such a frenetic league he was pushed into the 'Makelele' role in holding midfield and gave us so many unforgettable moments to cherish.

His countless hilarious dives which ended with him holding the ball and giggling to himself, for which the referees never had the heart to give handball against him. The sublime through ball for Nicolas Anelka's second goal against Arsenal in the 3-1 win at The Reebok.

His outrageous 'no-look' finish after breaking the off side trap to race onto Jay-Jay Okocha's perfectly weighted pass in our customary win at Upton Park. The brave headed winner at Ewood Park. The 43-yard swinging barnstormer that left then-England number one Paul Robinson floundering on the opening day of the 2006/07 season. The list is endless.

The run up and progression to the Carling Cup Final was glorious and all about Okocha in the media's eyes at the time, but Campo put in some awesome displays during this period, maybe more influential than the mercurial Nigerian.

This was typified by his contribution in holding at bay a hungry Aston Villa side at Villa Park as they set about overturning a three goal deficit after our 5-2 thumping of them in the first leg. He was a man possessed that night, a shaggy-haired warrior repelling waves of attacks almost single handedly amongst tiring, wavering and faltering teammates. He desperately wanted the club of his heart to reach that final and when the full-time whistle blew I vowed I would pay tribute to his heroics by donning a comedy Campo wig, like many others in the stands during our heartbreaking reverse to Middlesbrough in Cardiff.

The open letter sent to Guillem Balague after he was denied a proper chance to say goodbye by my favourite man (ahem) Gary Smeghead has become the stuff of legend at this club.
He did return here briefly for Jussi's testimonial but when this prodigal son makes his entrance in Kevin Davies' testimonial this Summer you may hear an even bigger roar than for Kev himself, such is the popular Spaniard's place in all Wanderer's hearts.

He wound down his career pretty quickly after he left us, never recovering from the broken heart of a jilted lover.

After his brief sojourn at Ipswich which involved 13 starts, 4 substitute appearances and one goal he wound up at AEK Larnaca in the Cypriot Premier League, presumably for a nice hot break in the Autumn of his career as he played just eight times before retiring that summer aged 36.

The fact this article has been an absolute joy to write and is so extremely long illustrates my immense strength of feeling for this Afro-permed, oaf of a man, with an uncomfortable looking running style and a propensity to crumple in a heap to the hilarity of our fans and himself. A man whom we took to our hearts, and he to ours.

It's unexplainable really but that's the beauty of life, you never know who you're going to fall in love with. And I'm not afraid to admit it. I fell in love with Ivan Campo.