“If I had a £1 for every person who’d asked me that then I wouldn’t have to play football again.”
That was Jamal Campbell-Ryce’s response when asked what happened last season when he was ditched by promotion-chasing Sheffield United as the season reached its climax.
The 32-year-old former Barnsley and Rotherham United wideman had netted seven goals to help the Blades, under then manager Nigel Clough, to chase success in the league and both cup competitions.
He netted twice in the 3-0 FA Cup shock over then Premier League side QPR, and also netted the winner against Preston North End, who would eventually go on to claim promotion via the play-offs.
But at the end of February, Clough sent Campbell-Ryce on loan to Notts County where he watched on helpless as United faltered in the play-offs.
“I honestly don’t know what it was,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “There was no bust-up or anything like that. That’s not me, anyway.
“I had a chat at the end of the season and asked for some answers (from Clough).
“I’d scored goals just before and then, just as we were pushing for promotion, I was asked to go out. But I don’t really want to dwell on it now.”
Clough’s departure in the summer and the arrival of Nigel Adkins has given the winger “a clean slate” and he is determined to make the most of his second chance.
After recovering from an injury which hampered his pre-season, Campbell-Ryce made his first appearance of the campaign in Tuesday’s 3-1 win at Peterborough United.
He was a 19th-minute substitute for the injured Stefan Scougall and will hope to have done enough to impress Adkins and retain his place when the Blades host Blackpool at Bramall Lane this afternoon.
“I said to the manager when he came in that I feel as if I’ve got a point to prove, that I’m hungrier than ever to perform and do well,” said Campbell-Ryce, who has had 11 clubs since starting out at Charlton Athletic.
“Hopefully, he sees that and recognises that. Yes, last season was frustrating because I don’t want to train and then not play.
“That’s the worst thing in the world for me. I just want to give my all for Sheffield United.
“Everybody knows it was strange me going out when I did. But that was the old regime and the old manager will have had his reasons. But it’s nice to get a fresh start.
“When the new one came in, he gave everybody a clean slate.”
At 32, Campbell-Ryce is the eldest player in the Blades dressing room.
With a youthful look about the squad, the winger is determined to be a mentor to rookies like 19-year-old Che Adams and Louis Reed, 18.
“When I was coming through at Charlton, some of the senior players there were brilliant with us young lads,” he recalled.
“People like Scott Parker, Jon Fortune, Steve Brown and Clive Mendonca were among them.
“I appreciated that so now, as I’m getting older, it’s important for me to do the same and help lead them in the right way.
“There are going to be games when everything chops and changes but, as the oldest member of the squad, it’s important for people like me and Jay McEveley, the captain, to do that.
“I speak to Che a lot and I tell him ‘don’t relax’ no matter what,” he said.
“The easiest thing is getting in the team. It’s much harder to stay in it.
“I had to watch from the bench last weekend and the gaffer made a joke about me sulking.
“But I told him I just want to play. There isn’t a professional in the game who should be happy on the bench.
“Look at Che, he’s playing week in and week out at the moment. I’m buzzing for him but it’s up to us to keep him grounded.
“I’m going to be doing a bit with him before the game to remind him about what he should be doing and that’s driving at players. I want to help him be the best that he can be and achieve his potential.
“When you’ve got young, hungry and intelligent players then why not? They want to do well. If they can bend my ear and ask me things then I’m more than happy to help.
“If Reedy or Che aren’t doing something right, then we’ll tell them. The same goes if they are doing something right, too, of course. Look at Harrison McGahey, he’s a young lad who hasn’t played for a while but he’s so hungry to learn and get better. That’s brilliant.
“Sometimes, you won’t get it from the manager. He doesn’t have the time to babysit people, if you want to put it like that, because he’s got so many other things to do.
“So if people like myself, Higgy (Michael Higdon) and Jay can help then great. Sometimes peer pressure can be very effective.”
Today sees the Blades seek a fourth successive victory. Since their opening day shock 4-0 loss at Gillingham, United have beaten Morecambe in the Capital One Cup, while also collecting back-to-back wins in League One against Chesterfield and Peterborough United.
Adkins knows his squad will be tested over the next 10 days, with three successive away trips after today.
First, they head to Fulham in the League Cup on Tuesday night, followed by a League trek to Swindon Town – the side who dumped the Blades out of the play-offs last season – next Saturday.
Adkins’s side must then head north for a Football League Trophy match at Hartlepool United the following Tuesday.