Chris Kamara

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Chris Kamara
Chris Kamara - Marie Curie Cancer Care Football League Ambassador.jpg
Kamara at a charity event in 2011
Personal information
Full name Christopher Kamara [1]
Date of birth (1957-12-25) 25 December 1957 (age 64) [1]
Place of birth Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, England [1]
Height 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) [2]
Position(s) Midfielder
Youth career
1974–1975 Portsmouth
Senior career*
1975–1977 Portsmouth 63 (7)
1977–1981 Swindon Town 147 (21)
1981 Portsmouth 11 (0)
1981–1985 Brentford 152 (28)
1985–1988 Swindon Town 86 (6)
1988–1990 Stoke City 60 (5)
1990–1991 Leeds United 20 (1)
1991–1993 Luton Town 49 (0)
1992–1993Sheffield United (loan) 8 (0)
1993Middlesbrough (loan) 5 (0)
1993–1994 Sheffield United 16 (0)
1994–1995 Bradford City 23 (3)
2012–2013 Welshpool Town 2 (0)
Teams managed
1995–1998 Bradford City
1998 Stoke City
*Club domestic league appearances and goals

Christopher Kamara (born 25 December 1957), often referred to as "Kammy", is an English former professional football player and manager who worked as a presenter and football analyst at Sky Sports from 1992 to 2022.


As a player, he was known as a tough-tackling midfielder. He joined the Royal Navy at the age of 16, before being signed up to Portsmouth in November 1974. He spent three years at the club before being sold on to Swindon Town for £14,000. He returned to Portsmouth in 1981 for a £50,000 fee, but was transferred to Brentford in October 1981. He spent four years with the "Bees" before leaving the club after picking up a runners-up medal in the Football League Trophy in 1985.

He re-signed with Swindon Town in August 1985 and helped the club to two successive promotions into the Second Division. He moved on to Stoke City in 1988, and a successful spell with the club won him a move to Leeds United in 1990. He helped the club to the Second Division title in 1989–90, but was out injured for 8 months before being sold to Luton Town for £150,000 in 1991. He had loan spells with Premier League clubs Sheffield United and Middlesbrough, before joining Sheffield United on a permanent basis in 1993. The following year he joined Bradford City as a player-coach.

He was appointed Bradford City manager in November 1995 and took the club from a relegation scrap to promotion out of the Second Division via the play-offs in 1996. He left the club in January 1998 and quickly took the reins at Stoke City, before he left the "Potters" in April 1998. From there he became a broadcaster with Sky Sports and has since appeared as a presenter on numerous other television programmes.

Early life

Kamara was born in Middlesbrough, North Riding of Yorkshire, to a Sierra Leonean father – Alimamy Kindo "Albert" Kamara – on Christmas Day in 1957. [3] Through his father he was eligible to play for Sierra Leone, and was called up to play in the 1994 African Cup of Nations, though he declined the offer. [4]

His father was a heavy gambler, leaving his mother Irene to sometimes plead for money from neighbours in order to provide food for Chris and his brother George and sister Maria. [5] Being one of the few black families in Park End, Middlesbrough, the family suffered racist abuse. [6]

He remains a great friend of Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson with whom he grew up on the Park End council estate. He and Gibson regularly attended matches together. [7]

He joined the Royal Navy at age 16, at the insistence of his father, himself a former naval mariner. [8] In doing so he missed the youth cup final for Middlesbrough Boys, though he went on to play for the Royal Navy's football team. [9] He was trained at HMS Raleigh at Torpoint [10] and later transferred to HMS Vernon. [11]

Playing career

Kamara's football career started when he was spotted playing for the Navy by Portsmouth manager Ian St John, who signed him on apprentice wages in November 1974 after agreeing to pay the Navy a £200 buy-out fee. [11] Youth team coach Ray Crawford told the Portsmouth News that Kamara was "weak in the air, his marking is wayward and he hasn't got much positional sense", but privately told Kamara that he had the potential to become a first team player. [11] [12] He made his first team debut in August 1975 in a 2–0 defeat by Luton Town, winning his chance after Mick Mellows was struck down with a knee injury. [13] The next match he scored his first senior goal in a 4–1 loss to Bolton Wanderers after being set up by Bobby McGuinness. [14] He went on to play regular football at Fratton Park in the 1975–76 season as "Pompey" were relegated out of the Second Division in last place. The club avoided relegation out of the Third Division by a single point in 1976–77, after which new manager Jimmy Dickinson sold Kamara to Third Division rivals Swindon Town for £14,000. [15]

Upon joining Swindon he was sent death threats by Portsmouth supporters, and was given police escorts to the County Ground. [16] He scored on his debut against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, but was frequently left out of the starting eleven by manager Danny Williams during the 1977–78 campaign. [17] New boss Bobby Smith took the "Robins" to within three points of promotion in 1978–79, and then the semi-finals of the League Cup in 1979–80. John Trollope replaced Smith as manager following a dismal start to the 1980–81 campaign, and he sold Kamara back to Portsmouth for £50,000. [18]

He was re-signed to Portsmouth by Frank Burrows, who had previously coached Kamara at Swindon. [18] However, in October 1981 he was again transferred after Brentford manager Fred Callaghan agreed to a swap deal with David Crown going the other way. [19] Kamara was paired with Terry Hurlock in a highly committed central midfield partnership at Griffin Park. [20] He settled in well during the 1981–82 campaign and scored a career best of 11 goals in the 1982–83 season as Brentford posted two top ten finishes. The club then struggled to just one place above the Third Division relegation zone in 1983–84 before rising to 13th place in 1984–85. He won a Football League Trophy runners-up medal in 1985, playing at Wembley in a 3–1 defeat by Wigan Athletic. [1] He took the decision to leave the club in summer 1985 after he rejected manager Frank McLintock's offer of a new one-year contract on the same terms. [21]

Kamara re-joined Swindon Town in August 1985 for a fee of £12,500 despite suffering from a ruptured hamstring tendon. [22] Under the guidance of Lou Macari the "Robins" won promotion out of the Fourth Division as champions in 1985–86, though Kamara missed the first half of the campaign and only played 23 games. [22] He missed just four games of the 1986–87 season as Swindon secured a second successive promotion by beating Gillingham in the play-offs; Kamara missed the replay but played in the original home and away leg fixtures of the tie. [23] However, Kamara became the first English player to be convicted of grievous bodily harm for an on-pitch incident, after breaking Shrewsbury Town player Jim Melrose's cheekbone with a punch straight after the final whistle of a game in the 1987–88 season; he was fined £1,200. [24]

Kamara moved on again in the summer of 1988 after choosing to reject Swindon's offer of a one-year contract. [25] He instead joined Mick Mills at Stoke City. [1] He was paired with Peter Beagrie in central midfield at the Victoria Ground. [26] He had a good 1988–89 season, scoring five goals in 44 appearances and he won the player of the year award. [1] On 19 August 1989 he was involved in a challenge where West Ham United's Frank McAvennie was stretchered off and required surgery on his ankle; McAvennie attempted to sue Kamara for damages but was unsuccessful. [27] Midway through the 1989–90 season Mills was dismissed and replaced by Alan Ball, who promptly sold Kamara to Leeds United. [1] In joining Leeds he rejected the offer to join Bruce Rioch's Middlesbrough – his hometown club that was owned by childhood friend Steve Gibson. [28]

At Elland Road were David Batty, Vinnie Jones, Gordon Strachan and Gary Speed; the presence of these highly skilled midfielders meant that Kamara was frequently left on the bench by manager Howard Wilkinson. [29] Kamara helped Leeds win the Second Division title in 1989–90 but appeared sparingly for the "Whites" in the First Division after finding himself injured with an Achilles tendon problem during the 1990–91 campaign. [30] He left Leeds in November 1991 and they went on to win the First Division title. [31]

Kamara remained in the top-flight by joining David Pleat's Luton Town for a £150,000 fee after returning to full fitness. [32] The "Hatters" were relegated on the last day of the 1991–92 season after letting slip a 1–0 lead over Notts County to lose the game 2–1. [33]

In October 1992, Kamara returned to the top-flight - now called the Premier League after joining Dave Bassett's Sheffield United on loan. [34] Despite failing to nail down a regular first team place in the 1992–93 season he made the move from Kenilworth Road to Bramall Lane permanent. [34] Before joining United he finally joined his hometown club Middlesbrough, albeit on a one-month loan, in February 1993. [35] His spell at Ayresome Park lasted just five games as manager Lennie Lawrence could not afford to offer him a permanent contract. [35] The "Blades" were relegated at the end of the 1993–94 campaign after slipping into the relegation zone on the final day of the season after a defeat by Chelsea. [36]

Kamara signed with Bradford City in summer 1994 after being offered a playing-coaching role by manager Lennie Lawrence. [37] The "Bantams" struggled in the 1994–95 season, though Kamara was promoted to assistant manager in April 1995. [38]

Managerial career

Bradford City

In November 1995, Bradford City chairman Geoffrey Richmond dismissed manager Lennie Lawrence and elevated Kamara from assistant manager to take Lawrence's place. [39] His goal was to keep the "Bantams" out of the relegation zone by the end of the 1995–96 season. [40] However, the club went on a run of just three defeats in the final 13 games to secure a place in the play-offs. [41] They turned round a 2–0 defeat at Valley Parade in the first leg of the play-off semi-finals to beat Sam Allardyce's Blackpool at Bloomfield Road. [42] Promotion was secured with a 2–0 victory over Notts County in the play-off final with goals from Des Hamilton and Mark Stallard. [43]

He signed Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer from 1. FC Kaiserslautern for £150,000, who proved to be a more than adequate replacement for Gavin Ward who was sold to Bolton Wanderers for £300,000. [44] He paid a club record £550,000 for Gordon Watson, who played just two games before being badly injured after a challenge from Huddersfield Town defender Kevin Gray. [45] The 1996–97 season saw Bradford narrowly escape relegation after a final day victory over Queens Park Rangers. [46]

In summer 1997, he brought in Darren Moore and Robbie Blake, whilst paying £50,000 for Jamie Lawrence and another £50,000 for Peter Beagrie. [46] He also signed Brazilian striker Edinho and former England international Chris Waddle on free transfers. [47] He remained at Valley Parade until he left the club in January 1998. [1] He and chairman Geoffrey Richmond had fallen out over Richmond's insistence on becoming heavily involved in the club's transfer policy. [48] He recommended his assistant Paul Jewell to be his successor, who went on to have his own highly successful spell as Bradford's manager. [49]

Stoke City

On 22 January 1998, he was appointed manager of one of his former clubs, Stoke City, and arrived with bold intentions at the Britannia Stadium stating that he would build a squad good enough to take the club into the Premier League. [1] However, with Stoke already in serious relegation trouble in 1997–98, Kamara sold their only player of real value, Andy Griffin to Newcastle United. [1] He fell out with Chief Executive Jez Moxey over how to spend the proceeds of the sale; Moxey wanted Marco Gabbiadini but Kamara vetoed the deal. [50] He instead spent £350,000 on Coventry City striker Kyle Lightbourne. [51] In his 14 games in charge with the "Potters", only one was won and he was dismissed on 8 April 1998. [52] In Kamara's three months in charge, Stoke could not recover from their poor form and were relegated to the third tier. [1]

Media career

Kamara gave up on management after his time at Stoke City and instead worked as a pundit for a number of television and radio stations. [53] He won a regular slot on Soccer Extra with Brian Woolnough in 1999, and from there was asked by Rob McCaffrey to contribute to Soccer Saturday on Sky Sports. [53] There he was asked to attend a match on Saturday and appear over live video link providing brief updates on the match. [54] At the time this was an untried concept in the UK, and Kamara and his camera crew largely learned how to best present the format as they went along. [54] He quickly became well known on the programme for his highly excitable nature, propensity for comical gaffes and tendency to come out with unusual sayings that baffled host Jeff Stelling and the other studio pundits, such as his observation that the Tottenham players were "fighting like beavers" in their match against Arsenal. [55] In one of his more famous on-air gaffes, he failed to realise that Anthony Vanden Borre had been sent off in the game he was watching between Portsmouth and Blackburn, instead thinking that he had been substituted. [56]

Kamara has also presented the weekly Sky Sports show Goals on Sunday since August 2000 and provides additional commentary on some of Sky's televised matches. [57] He is also a regular guest on Soccer AM , interviewing players and managers at grounds around the country. [58]

Before the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Kamara changed his name by deed poll to Chris Cabanga (Cabanga is a Zulu word meaning 'to think' or 'imagine') in response to a Facebook campaign supported by 20,000 people. [59] [60] [61]

In 2012, he made a special appearance for Mid Wales Football League side Welshpool Town, after his Sky Sports colleague Jeff Stelling mocked the strugglers following the club's 10–1 loss to Waterloo Rovers the previous week. Welshpool manager David Jones emailed Sky explaining how the club nearly folded, and Sky made amends by arranging for Kamara to play for them. He played the full 90 minutes, in midfield in a 6–1 defeat, assisting a goal with a corner. [62] On 28 March 2013, he appeared for a second time; more than 500 fans turned out to watch the game which Welshpool lost 4–1 to Newbridge-on-Wye in the Spar Mid Wales League. [63]

Kamara co-presents the ITV series Ninja Warrior UK alongside Ben Shephard and Rochelle Humes. The first series began airing in April 2015 and the second in January 2016. A third series of Ninja Warrior UK began in December 2016. In 2015, Kamara took part in ITV's Give a Pet a Home series which worked alongside the RSPCA in Birmingham. [64]

In February 2016, Kamara appeared in an episode of The Great Sport Relief Bake Off [65] and in June 2016, he provided the commentary for Soccer Aid 2016 alongside Clive Tyldesley. Since February 2017, Kamara has provided commentary for the 'Ant vs. Dec' segment of Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway .

In 2021, Kamara played himself on Ted Lasso , as a pundit on a fictional version of Soccer Saturday , along with presenter Jeff Stelling. [66]

In April 2022, it was announced that Kamara would be leaving Sky Sports at the end of the 2021-22 football season after working on Soccer Saturday for 24 years. [67]

Television credits

2000–22 Goals on Sunday Co-presenter Sky Sports With Alex Scott (currently)
2011 That Sunday Night Show Guest ITV 1 episode
John Bishop's Britain Football pundit BBC One 5 episodes
2012, 2016 8 Out of 10 Cats Guest Channel 4/More4 2 episodes
2013 Tipping Point: Lucky Stars Contestant ITV 1 episode; won £400 for Marie Curie Cancer Care
2014 The Chase: Celebrity Special Contestant1 episode
2015–2019 Ninja Warrior UK Co-presenter5 series; with Ben Shephard and Rochelle Humes
2015 Give a Pet a Home Celebrity contributor1 series
2015, 2016, 2017 Celebrity Juice Guest ITV2 3 episodes
2015 Tipping Point for Text Santa Contestant ITV 1 episode; won £500 for the Text Santa charities
2016 The Big Fat Quiz of Everything Guest Channel 4 1 episode
Loose Women Guest ITV 2 episodes
The Great Sport Relief Bake Off [68] Contestant BBC One 1 episode
You're Back in the Room Guest ITV 1 episode
Play to the Whistle Guest1 episode
Soccer Aid 2016 CommentatorLive football event
Murder in Successville Guest BBC Three 1 episode
It's Not Me, It's You Guest Channel 5 1 episode
Celebrity Storage Hunters Participant Dave 1 episode
Have I Got News for You Guest BBC One 1 episode
Would I Lie to You? Christmas Special Guest1 episode
2017 Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway Commentator ITV 1 episode; 'Ant vs. Dec' segment
Harry Hill's Alien Fun Capsule Commentator1 episode
The Keith & Paddy Picture Show Ray Parker Jr. 1 episode
Possibly...The Best Adverts in the World GuestOne-off episode
Guess the Star PerformerOne-off episode
2018 Room 101 Guest BBC One 1 episode
Through the Keyhole [69] Panellist ITV 1 episode
Catchphrase: Celebrity Special ContestantEpisodes 11 and 13 (2018 World Cup)
All Together Now: Celebrity Special Contestant BBC One 1 episode
The Crystal Maze: Celebrity Special Contestant Channel 4 1 episode
Michael McIntyre's Big Show Guest BBC One 1 episode
2019 Emmerdale Himself ITV 1 episode (cameo) [70]
2020 The Big New Year's In Guest BBC One One-off special
2021 Ted Lasso Himself Apple TV+ 3 episodes
Code 404 Himself Sky Comedy 1 episode (Season 2, Episode 1)

Other work

In September 2000, Chris Kamara's Street Soccer was released for the PlayStation, for which Kamara provided both commentary and some basic motion capture for player animation, with the concept of the game pre-dating the EA Sports' FIFA Street series. He was also a commentator for 2005's This Is Football , alongside Peter Drury.

Kamara was formerly the chairman of the panel which chooses the Football League Championship Manager of the Month award, [71] but left the role for the beginning of the 2009–10 season.

Charity work

Kamara was inducted into the Show Racism the Red Card Hall of Fame in 2004. [72] As a player, he suffered years of severe racial abuse. [73]

Since May 2010 Kamara has been a national ambassador for Marie Curie, fronting the Charity of the Season partnership with the Football League in 2010/2011. In December 2011 he received 'The Above & Beyond in Memory of Sir Bill Cotton award' for his contributions to the charity. [74] He, and a team of Football League ambassadors, including Brendan Rodgers, Aidy Boothroyd, and Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson managed to raise £385,000 for the charity and to climb to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. Kamara became an Ambassador of the Special Olympics Great Britain Organisation in April 2011 after taking part in the Special Olympics Unity Cup as a celebrity partner before the Germany v Argentina quarter-final match in Cape Town, during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. [75]

Singing career

Kamara released a charity single entitled Sing 4 England in 2012 as England's officially sanctioned tournament song for Euro 2012. [76]

In November 2019, he released his debut album, Here's to Christmas, which reached number 8 in the charts. [77] He released a second Christmas album, "And A Happy New Year", on 27 November 2020. [78]

Personal life

He married Anne on 29 May 1982 and the couple have two sons, Ben and Jack. [79]

Career statistics

As a player

Source: [80]

Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
ClubSeasonLeague FA Cup League Cup Other [A] Total
Portsmouth 1975–76 Second Division 244000000244
1976–77 Third Division 393411000444
Swindon Town 1977–78 Third Division40103061004911
1978–79 Third Division282325000364
1979–80 Third Division345616000466
1980–81 Third Division454215000525
Portsmouth 1981–82 Third Division110003100141
Brentford 1981–82 Third Division315300000345
1982–83 Third Division441130703 [lower-alpha 1] 05711
1983–84 Third Division38631401 [lower-alpha 2] 0467
1984–85 Third Division39641416 [lower-alpha 2] 1539
Swindon Town 1985–86 Fourth Division 20100002 [lower-alpha 2] 0221
1986–87 Third Division42320408 [lower-alpha 3] 0563
1987–88 Second Division25230503 [lower-alpha 4] 0362
Stoke City 1988–89 Second Division38430211 [lower-alpha 4] 0445
1989–90 Second Division22110202 [lower-alpha 4] 1272
Leeds United 1989–90 Second Division111000000111
1990–91 First Division 7000200090
1991–92 First Division2000101 [lower-alpha 4] 040
Luton Town 1991–92 First Division280100000290
1992–93 First Division21000202 [lower-alpha 5] 0250
Sheffield United (loan) 1992–93 Premier League 8000000080
Middlesbrough (loan) 1992–93 Premier League5000000050
Sheffield United 1993–94 Premier League160100000170
Bradford City 1994–95 Second Division23320302 [lower-alpha 2] 1304
Career total6417144762531377886

As a manager

Managerial record by team and tenure
Bradford City 27 November 19956 January 1998112402646035.7
Stoke City 22 January 19988 April 199814158007.1
Total [81] 126413154032.5


As a player


Swindon Town

Leeds United


As a Manager

Bradford City

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