It has been a breakout year for Blacktown City FC’s up-and-coming defender Lachlan Campbell.
The 20-year-old has burst onto the scene within a youthful Blacktown outfit, having impressed with a consistent run of performances since making his debut back in Round 9.
Plying his trade primarily as a centreback, the young defender been a key figure in Blacktown’s recent success.
After a rocky start, the Western Sydney club have only suffered a single defeat in ten rounds since Campbell was first introduced to their starting eleven, and now find themselves sat comfortably in third position heading into the business end of the campaign.
Campbell arrived at the club in 2018, having spent his formative seasons at Castle Hill United and Hills Brumbies before captaining the FNSW Institute’s U16 side in 2015 and experiencing two seasons within the Western Sydney Wanderers Academy.
Upon moving on from the Wanderers, he was excited by the prospect of linking up with the 2016 National Premier Leagues NSW Champions.
“John Carnevale contacted me towards the end of the (2017) season and set up a meeting with himself and Critto (Mark Crittenden),” Campbell recalled.
“Straight away I felt really good vibes from both of them, the club and their ambitions moving forward.
“The Wanderers had let me know that they wanted to move me on, so it was great to have that option to go to straight into Blacktown’s Under 20’s and prove myself for a year to try and earn a first grade contract for this season.”
Campbell immediately thrived in his new environment, being awarded the club’s Under 20’s player of the year accolade at the end of his first season.
He has treasured the competitive atmosphere fostered at Blacktown, in contrast with the emphasis on development enforced by his previous academy clubs.“Everyone’s been brilliant,” Campbell reflected.
“Playing from the start of last year with Johnny (Carnevale) pushed the winning mentality present throughout the club; this was really important to me.
“Being at the FNSW Institute and the Wanderers, the main focus wasn’t on winning so it’s good to have that mentality at the club.
“Critto’s been great in giving me opportunities, and I’ve just continued to learn each week.
“I was training with him a little bit last year and for him to promote me to the first team this season I have been very grateful.
“All of the senior players have been really helpful to the young boys stepping up.
“As a centreback, Yianni (Spyrakis) and Lynchy (Grant Lynch) have always been very helpful and encouraging to me, growing my confidence a lot.”
An injury to teammate Yianni Spyrakis granted Campbell his starting debut back in Round 9.
It was well and truly a baptism of fire for the youngster, who played 45 minutes in Blacktown’s 4-0 defeat to runaway league leaders Wollongong Wolves at WIN Stadium.
“Unfortunately, Yianni fractured his arm in Round 8 against Rockdale so I stepped in for Round 9 against Wollongong away,” the defender recalled.
“We were down 1-0 at half time and I came off as we changed formation – it was a bit of a tough first day to step into!”
Since then things have certainly looked up for Campbell, who has enjoyed an extended run-out in Mark Crittenden’s team.
He has even found himself on the scoresheet on a couple of occasions, the first arriving away to Sutherland in Round 15.
However, Campbell enforced he is very much a defensive orientated player.
“They (the goals) are definitely just a bonus,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter who puts the ball in the back of the net as long as we get the results, they’re more important.
“I’m more focused on keeping clean sheets.
“It is nice to chip in when you can, but my goal is just to get results.”
After losing the likes of Mitch Mallia, Connor Evans and the Speranza brothers in recent times, 2019 was supposed to be a challenging year for Blacktown.
However, the rise of Campbell and co. has seen the club quietly mount yet another tilt at the Championship.
The youngster reflected the air of positivity emerging from Blacktown as they continue to build formidable form.
“I think Critto’s done a good job in keeping our direction with all the players moving on,” he said.
“He’s brought in a lot of young boys and put a lot of belief in all of us – we’ve all done ourselves proud in stepping up from there.
“The culture that’s been created at the club has a lot to do with it; everyone gets along so well on and off the field.
“A lot of that comradery in the changeroom helps out, and that’s what you see on the pitch a lot of the time.
“From this position here, we still believe we can take it (the Championship) out.
“Having a good run in the last few rounds and pinching a spot in the top three gives us two bites at the cherry, so we are very confident that we can do a job from this position.”
As for his long-term prospects, Campbell is more than willing to buy his time at Blacktown and wait to see what the future may hold.
“I just want to keep doing my job, getting game time where I can and keep the clean sheets coming, doing the job that I’m set each game week in week out.
“This year my focus was to make sure I was ready for my opportunity, and to take it with both hands when it came.
“Moving forward I just want to keep playing well for Blacktown, getting as much game time as I can.
“Obviously I’m loving it at the club at the moment, and moving forward every young player has aspirations of playing in the A-League.
“Hopefully I can have a few good years at Blacktown and maybe one day put my hand up for an opportunity there.”
By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Reporter Chris Curulli (Twitter handle @ChrisCurulli)