When Sam Allardyce is asked which players have been the finest signings he has ever made, Spain international Ivan Campo is always one of the first names out of his mouth.

Now, on the occasion of Big Sam's 100th game in charge of West Ham United, the ex-Valencia, Real Madrid and Bolton Wanderers midfielder has repaid the favour. Campo spent five seasons working with Big Sam at Bolton after joining the Trotters in 2002.

Campo, now 39 and living in his native Spain, said the Hammers boss is a 'very special' coach who made sure he settled into English football and life in this country seamlessly.

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"I had a very special relationship with Sam because when I first moved to Bolton from Madrid I was living by myself and Sam was not just a very good coach, he was a very special friend to me," Campo confirmed in an exclusive interview with whufc.com. "He helped me whenever I had any problems off the pitch as well as on the pitch, he supported me and I appreciated that.

"When I was playing in Spain everything was different to how life in the Premier League with Bolton and Sam Allardyce was. He helped me to perfectly understand not just how to play football in England but to understand and adapt to the way of life in England and that was very important.

"I could always speak very openly to Sam about personal problems that I was having, that is what I appreciate most about him because he helped me through my personal problems."

Campo, who won the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid in 2000 and was in the Spain squad at the 1998 FIFA World Cup finals, was one of a host of big-name foreign players brought to Bolton by Big Sam.

Nigeria star Jay-Jay Okocha, France FIFA World Cup winner Youri Djorkaeff, Greece midfielder Stelios Giannakopoulos, Senegal star El-Hadji Diouf and France defender Bruno N'Gotty also turned out for the Trotters during Big Sam's memorable seven-year spell in charge.

Giannakopoulos, as well as former Bolton team-mates Kevin Davies and Ricardo Gardner, have spoken to the Official Programme for the Capital One Cup third-round visit of Cardiff City - Big Sam's 100th game as West Ham manager.

Campo is not surprised that his former boss has made a successful start to life in east London.

"For me, Sam is a very special coach because he has very clear ideas about football and he always wants what's best for his players," said the San Sebastian-born holding midfielder.

"Motivating players is very important and Sam knew how to motivate everyone for every game to how to produce good performances from us. At key points during the season it's crucial to get big performances from your players and Sam could do that.

"He's a lovely, lovely man. He is a very good friend and an absolutely fantastic coach. It's very important in football to be honest about performances, selection and tactics and Sam is a very honest man.

"When I was playing at Bolton with Sam as our coach we celebrated many good times with the players, fans and the club and a lot of that success was down to Sam."

*Tickets are available on the day for Big Sam's 100th game in charge, with matchday prices reduced to just £20 for Adults and £15 for Under-16s. For full details, click here.