Express & Star

Sad day for the West Midlands as we mourn two of football's good guys

It was a heartbreaking weekend for football in the West Midlands and Shropshire after tragic news of the passing of both Kevin Campbell and Matija Sarkic was confirmed.

Last updated

Albion hero Campbell, who was 54, was a giant character in English football in the 1990s and made a seismic impact at all of his clubs, none more so than 18 months at The Hawthorns, at the tail-end of his career, where he was the catalyst for the greatest of Great Escapes.

Campbell stayed in the game after hanging up his boots in 2007. He worked in punditry covering Premier League football home and abroad and was the biggest supporter of his son, Tyrese, also a striker, who left Stoke this summer.

It emerged early in June that ‘Super Kev’, as he was named by the Everton faithful, had fallen seriously ill. Then, late on Saturday morning, the news was confirmed that Campbell, formerly of Arsenal, Leyton Orient, Leicester, Nottingham Forest, Trabzonspor, Everton, Albion and Cardiff had lost his battle with ill-health.

Tributes flooded in remembering the striker, team-mate and man so full of positivity and light.

Former Baggies colleagues were among hundreds, if not thousands, to share their condolences on social media.

Nigel Pearson, assistant boss at The Hawthorns in Campbell’s time, posted: “His influence, contribution, impact and wonderful magnetic personality was pivotal in our Great Escape. You are loved and you will be missed big lad.”

Former team-mate Nigel Quashie wrote: “Growing up you, along with many footballers who made it out of south London, gave me hope of trying to be a footballer one day.

“You knew how to light up a room also get a smile out of people on and off the pitch. I’m just glad I got the opportunity to smile around you.”

Former Albion striker Robert Earnshaw added: “The whole of football will miss you Kev. What a personality, character & great person. RIP.”

When son Tyrese had a loan spell at Shrewsbury Town in 2019, Kevin attended games home and away and sat with Shrewsbury fans up and down the country. For those few months he was an adopted Salopian. He was the ultimate people’s person.

Earlier on Saturday morning had come news of the sudden shock passing of former Villa, Wolves, Shrewsbury, Blues and Stoke goalkeeper Sarkic, who was entering the prime of his career aged 26.

Just 10 days before his death, the Grimsby-born Montenegrin international shone as man of the match for his country against a fine Belgium side.

Sarkic was a quiet but extremely polite, mild-mannered, respectful and extremely intelligent individual who captured the admiration of everybody who came across him.

He was the son of a Montenegrin diplomatic and was educated in football at the prestigious Anderlecht academy, where he was close friends with Villa’s Youri Tielemans as a youngster. His twin brother Oliver plays in Montenegro.

He joined Millwall from Wolves last summer and played 33 games for the Lions and had nine caps for Montenegro.

Tributes from across English football and further afield poured in to remember a wonderful talent and humble, hard-working individual taken too soon.