On-loan keeper Lee Camp discusses his fightback from career-threatening injury and signing for Sunderland
Last January, the experienced goalkeeper was lying in bed with a brace on his knee fearing the worst.
Fast forward 12 months and the 33-year-old is now grasping his second chance with both gloves as he looks to keep Sunderland in the Championship after completing a deadline day loan move from Cardiff City, the chance to work under Chris Coleman and play for the Black Cats too good to turn down.
Camp was playing in goal for Rotherham United against Leeds on November 26, 2016 when his career almost came to an abrupt end.
His right knee swelled after a routine collision and it later transpired that the cartilage had come away from the kneecap.
Surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation process followed for Camp, who left Rotherham last summer to be reunited with Neil Warnock at Cardiff.
Injuries limited his opportunities for the Bluebirds this term and he was allowed to head to Wearside on loan until the end of the season.
“The reality is a year ago I was lying in bed with a knee brace on thinking I might never play again,” revealed Camp.
“A year down the line, to be playing is fantastic, in something that matters and hopefully, when all is said and done, I will have had a positive effect and the team stays up and the club moves forward.
“It was a strange injury. I slid out for a ball in a game, the lad collided with my knee and it just swelled up.
“It was a strange feeling.
“I have had bumps and scrapes along the way. but my knee went cold straight away and swelled – I knew it was serious.
“First investigations seemed OK, but something wasn’t quite right.
“We looked again two or three weeks later and some cartilage had come away from the kneecap.
“I spoke to a few surgeons and it was touch and go. I dealt with Andy Williams in London and he had the idea of preserving the cartilage, which was a lengthy process.
“Thankfully, along the way with him and a couple of other surgeons, I have managed to get back playing.”
Asked if he cherishes every game more following his serious knee injury, Camp added: “Yes. Last deadline day I couldn’t get out of bed or go to the toilet without my girlfriend getting my leg off the bed.
“It was tough, yet this deadline day I sign for Sunderland.
“I consider myself fortunate to have been given this opportunity, one I am relishing.”
The opportunity to join Sunderland came midway through deadline day after a move for Leeds United stopper Andy Lonergan, ironically a friend of Camp’s, fell through.
Camp admits it was a “mad” few hours while his future was decided.
Had he woken with an inkling he’d be on the move that day?
“No, I was preparing for an Under-23 game the next day in Cardiff. We had been in training,” revealed the Northern Ireland international.
“I knew there was speculation about Andy Lonergan. I am friends with him, but, for whatever reason, it didn’t happen and I got the call at 1pm asking ‘would I be interested, was it possible?’
“Obviously I was interested in playing games.
“It was happening, then wasn’t and then it all got agreed between the managers and the clubs and it was a case of getting everything done in time.
“It was a mad office down in Cardiff. There is a lot of strain on the people that work on these deals, a lot of unsung heroes behind the scenes with all the paperwork.
“You don’t appreciate how much paperwork there is even for a loan to get signed and scanned back.”
Camp spoke to Coleman before committing to Sunderland but admits he needed no convincing.
“He didn’t have to sell it,” revealed Camp. “I have played up here many times, I am a football fan and everyone knows the size of the club.
“As soon as I heard, I couldn’t believe it. ‘Let’s get the fuel in the car and get going!’
“I did have to sell it to the missus as we have a new baby, eight weeks old at the time. But, as soon as she was on board, we worked how it would play out and it was always happening.
“The manager didn’t promise me anything. He said to come in and compete and we’ll see where it takes us.
“I have been able to play a couple of games and will hopefully play a lot more.
“It is disappointing when you’re not winning. I don’t like losing and I certainly don’t like conceding goals.
“I enjoy playing and I enjoy getting opportunities, but I’m here to win.
“The injury’s behind me now, so it’s about performing well and doing the job.”