Sheffield goal-scoring legend opens up about failed spell with the Blades
A goal-scoring legend from Sheffield has revealed the story behind his failed spell with the Blades in a new book.
Steve Cammack, who grew up in Wybourn, is still Scunthorpe United’s all-time top scorer, having hammered home 121 goals in 279 appearances for the Irons between 1979 and 1986.
But he could have been slotting them in for Sheffield United had a four-year spell with the club not ended in disappointment.
A new biography by Julian McKenzie, who idolised the striker as a boy growing up on the same Wybourn estate where Cammack honed his goal-scoring skills, explores the highs and lows of his career and what happened after he hung up his boots.
Julian told how he was inspired to get in touch with Steve and write Bringing back the Legend that is… in response to the forward being snubbed in Football Focus’ Cult Heroes series, in which he failed to even make the top three Scunthorpe players despite his goal-scoring exploits.
As a young boy, he remembers buying Shoot magazine every week and scouring the scoring charts, in which he says the names at the top of other divisions often changed but Steve was never knocked from his perch in Division Four.
Julian was still only a teenager when Steve opened a short-lived chip shop in Wybourn and he got to play football on the local playing field with the man whose scoring prowess had left him in awe.
“I got to know Steve a bit at the time and when Cult Heroes was on years later I told all my friends that there was only going to be one winner when it came to Scunthorpe United, where Steve’s a god, so I was shocked when he wasn’t even nominated in the top three,” said Julian.
"I thought I needed to do something about it so I tracked him down, which wasn’t hard as his family still lived on the estate, and I said ‘tell me about your life’.”
The result is a ‘warts and all’ biography, charting Steve’s journey from growing up in Sheffield as one of seven siblings to starring for Scunthorpe United and ending up in Clowne, near Chesterfield, selling beer.
Julian describes Steve as a ‘very laid back’ and ‘funny’ man, who wasn’t bothered by his omission from Cult Heroes but had a very different story to tell than today’s pampered stars.
Even at the height of his success in Scunthorpe, Steve, who is now a father-of-three, with eight grandchildren, spent the summer working for Sheffield Council’s parks department to subsidise his wages, he explains.
"Footballers today get everything they want so they don’t really have a story to tell because there’s no hardship,” said Julian.
"That’s why lots of people now want to read about what the game was like before all the glitz and glamour, and you definitely get that with this biography.
"When I was writing the book he would joke about which ex-wife was going to sue him, because he’s been married four times, but it’s actually a very ex-wife friendly biography.”
For readers in Sheffield, one of the most interesting aspects of the book, which features a foreword by Neil Warnock, will be the behind-the-scenes accounts of life at Sheffield United during Steve’s time there between 1971 and 1975.
Despite Steve only playing 36 times for the club, Julian says that he took his chances whenever he got them and ‘couldn’t understand why a certain manager didn’t take to him’.
Steve himself says: “I definitely think I could have made it at Sheffield United. I always believed in my own ability and I was quick, which helped because a lot of defenders were scared of pace.
“Looking back, I think if your face doesn’t fit you have no chance.
"I wasn’t Scottish enough for Jimmy Sirrel and with Ken Furphy if he’d said I’m going to play you till the end of the season and if you don’t do it you’re on your way, I would have said fair enough, but he didn’t. He bought Tony Field and I didn’t get a look in.
"I always tried but over the years I’ve asked myself could I have done more because at the time I thought if you don’t give a damn then why should I?”
Steve, who also made more than 100 appearances for Chesterfield, says football was very different back then but insists he’s not bitter about the huge sums of money which have flowed into the game since he quit playing.
"You have players on £300,000 a week, which is ridiculous money, but fair play to them, you wouldn’t turn it down,” said the 66-year-old, who is a talented golfer and has won tournaments with his partner Sue.
"I do look back sometimes and think how have I missed out on that money.
"When I was at Sheffield United I was on £7 a week as an apprentice and then £25 a week after that.
"Nowadays you have players who have just turned pro driving £30,000 cars, which is mad.”
Despite his time with the Blades, or perhaps because of it, Steve does not describe himself as a Sheffield United fan.
He prefers to call himself a fan of Sheffield clubs and those of Yorkshire as a whole, and he says he has been disappointed by the struggles of the Owls and Blades this season but has enjoyed following the success of rival sides Leeds and Barnsley.
Bringing back the Legend that is… will be available via Amazon, priced £9.99, from March 20.