“There’s zero reason to quit right now”

Somewhere down the road, perhaps several weeks or months from now, Dante Campbell will look back at his 2023 season with Valour FC and undoubtedly see it as a period of personal growth.

Right now, though, the versatile 24-year-old fullback/midfielder is focused on simply one thing: winning Sunday’s home match against Forge FC to help keep Valour’s fleeting playoff hopes alive for a few more days.

“No matter what, you should always have something to play for – that’s my mind frame and I think it’s the group’s mind frame as well,” Campbell said this week in a chat with “I do believe there are of things to play for. As our coach said, ‘You never know what Santa could bring us for Christmas in a couple of weeks.’

“Yes, a lot of things would have to go our way, obviously, and we would have to take care of business ourselves. But whether it’s fighting right now, whether it’s fighting for next year and a contract or whether it’s representing your family, there’s so many things still to play for along with having pride in what we do.

“Sure, we love the game, but this is our job as well and as long as we’re in the season I would expect myself along with my teammates to give it our all as if we’re in the mix for a playoff spot.”

Valour enters this weekend in seventh place in the Canadian Premier League standings, 10 points out of a playoff spot with just five matches remaining. A daunting task, yes, but until they are mathematically eliminated Campbell is pressing to live in the moment.

“We all have something to play for at the end of the day. It’s still possible,” he said. “We know we’re not where we want to be in the league, but we’re still mathematically in it. There’s zero reason to quit right now. Yeah, things are tough, and it’s been a long year for us, but we’re trying to keep fighting and focus on what’s next for us and that’s Forge on Sunday.”

Campbell is fresh from a stellar performance in last week’s 3-1 win over York United FC in which he scored his first goal enroute to be named to the CPL’s Team of the Week and saluted as the league’s player of the week.

It’s a deserving nod for the Etobicoke product, who began in the Toronto FC Academy and played briefly for Valour in the 2020 Island Games before spending last season with L.A. Galaxy II. His ability to play in the midfield and drop back to the fullback position has served the team well this year, even if the changes can sometimes serve up challenges.

“Sometimes football has its ups and downs,” Campbell explained. “There can be downs when you switch your position and things don’t go your way. But the good thing about is you work to limit those times when things don’t go your way. I try to find a balance in that.

“There’s still a lot I can be better at, but I think I’ve come to grasp an understanding of what the team needs from me in each position. I just try to make sure I’m as clear and transparent with our head coach as to what he needs from me, and I just try to stick to that.

“I hope that (versatility) serves me well. In some sense sometimes it’s good to have a guy that if someone goes down with an injury or an important player at a certain position is not fit or a player is away with a national team – whatever the reason may be – it’s good to have an extra player who can give you some sense of security.

“That’s the way I try to look at it. I like to have that kind of role, more or less being a jack of all trades.”

That’s versatility, and the maturity shown in adapting to it, certainly makes Campbell a valuable component now and looking ahead for Valour. And as trying as this season has been, again, there has been some individual growth in going through it – including finding his voice as a leader.

“I’ve learned a lot more about myself this year,” he said. “I feel like I’ve always been a leader, whether it’s been vocally or just through my actions. I always wanted to be a focal point for my team when things get tough. I’ve had that in me since I was younger and playing in all sports, not just football. I’ve always been a competitive person who loves to win. This year there was an opportunity to step into that role and take on a bigger role than I have recently.

“I think it’s helped me improve as a person on and off the field and I’m really grateful for that.”