In a blink, Fraizer Campbell is suddenly 26, two years removed from his cap with England, and on his fourth team since 2009, yet purchased today from a relegated Cardiff City, Campbell will at least get to stay in the Premier League. For a reported $1.5 million, the former Manchester United prospect is Crystal Palace’s first major signing of the summer.
Major, of course, is debatable for a player who has never scored more than six times in a Premier League season, but ever since he came through United’s academy, there’s been a high regard for the versatile forward. Unfortunately for Campbell, that regard has never translated into a consistent place in England’s top flight. Since leaving Old Trafford in the summer of 2009, Campbell as hopped from United to Sunderland, to Cardiff, and now Palace. All the while, the one-time international has failed to recapture his initial promise.
With today’s move, Tony Pulis becomes the latest coach to bank on that potential, not that the small fee leaves the Palace boss overcommitted. Yet during a summer that’s seen targets Gylfi Sigurdsson and Steven Caulker land elsewhere, the Eagles have struggled to improve their squad.
That left a team that struggled for goals throughout the 2013-14 campaign in search of attacking talent, and while Campbell’s track record suggests he’s unlikely be among the league’s most threatening options, he is an improvement. Though Dwight Gayle (seven goals in 811 minutes) proved potent and Marouane Chamakh (five in 27 starts) could improve, the team only scored 33 times last season. At a minimum, Pulis needs some other options.
Campbell will provide that, as will Glenn Murray, who will be healthy this season, but in the former United trainee, Pulis is getting somebody who can also provide some helpful in-game flexibility. He can play as a lead striker, in support, or attack from wide, allowing Pulis to make changes on-the-fly, if needed.
With a target man like Chamakh capable of occupying defenders, Campbell could benefit from the extra room. Instead of being isolated alone up top (as he was with Cardiff), Campbell can profit from the work of others.
“This is a great opportunity for myself to, firstly, get back in the Premier League and also have the chance to be around a great manager and some fantastic players,” Campbell told Palace’s website, eventually alluding to the difficulty he had securing a more away from Cardiff.
“The last couple of weeks have been frustrating for me but I can’t wait to get started now in the red and blue of Crystal Palace.”
Still, this is unlikely to be a game-changer for Pulis. On the contrary, a move like this represents the bare minimum. If the Eagles can’t bring in a true impact player, they at least need to find some other options. Though he’s never capitalized on his promise, Campbell is certainly that: Another option.