Campbell Forsyth: An appreciation

By SFC Media time Tue 17 Nov Club

Club historian David Bull remembers former Southampton goalkeeper Campbell Forsyth, who has died aged 86.

When Kilmarnock’s Scottish League-winning goalkeeper, Campbell Forsyth, signed for Southampton in December 1965, Terry Paine was “over the moon”.

Terry had been playing for England at Hampden Park in April 1964, when Campbell was winning the first of his four caps in Scotland’s goal. The hosts won 1-0 and Terry took a shine to the debutant who’d kept a clean sheet. He was Terry’s “kind of ’keeper: big and commanding.”

Campbell was still only 31 – young for a goalkeeper – as he went straight into Ted Bates’s side that was successfully pressing for promotion to the top flight. So he might have been expected to play more than 51 times for the Saints before retiring in the month of his 34th birthday.

He was thwarted, though, by losing a season to injury, followed by a daunting loss of confidence. In the Saints’ fourth home game of 1966/67, vs Liverpool, Campbell broke his leg in a collision with his teammate Denis Hollywood and the visitors’ Ian Callaghan.

A three-man collision between (left to right) Callaghan, Hollywood and Forsyth is about to happen

Campbell was out for the season and would have to compete, in 1967/68, with Bates’s latest goalkeeping hope from Scotland, Eric Martin. Campbell got his place back – in two spells, the first of which ended in a 5-1 home defeat by Leicester City. 

The visitors’ fifth goal was scored by Peter Shilton, whose long clearance bounced and flew over a stranded Forsyth. Campbell blamed the way the groundsman, Len Stansbridge, a former Saints keeper, hand-painted his pitch-markings: the ball had, he reasoned, hit one of Stansbridge’s “hard-baked, painted lines and it shot.” The video evidence says otherwise: the bounce was, Shilton reckoned, “just a complete fluke”. 

However you explain it, it did not help Campbell’s rehabilitation. His “confidence was shattered” and, after another short burst of appearances, he quit the game. Watneys employed him as their Edinburgh representative for 28 years and he scouted for Bates in Scotland. Three of his recommendations – Jim Steele, Gerry O’Brien and Ally MacLeod – would play first-team football for the Saints. 

When he built his retirement bungalow in Falkirk, Campbell named it “The Dell”. And when the fund-raising dinner for the Bates statue clashed with a long-scheduled engagement, he and his wife Cathie cancelled the latter and came down for the dinner.

Two grandsons are footballers. Cameron, a Scotland Under-19 international, is with Accrington Stanley while Blair plays semi-pro in Perth, Australia.

Campbell Forsyth head shot

5th May 1934  15th November 2020

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