Sol Campbell had a very successful football career stretching over 19 years, playing at the highest level and winning numerous league titles and cups. It’s sad that he can’t enjoy that success in retirement but rather comes across in every newspaper article and interview as being very angry and unhappy.
In his latest comments, as he promotes his book, ‘Sol Campbell – the Authorised Biography’, he appears to attack almost everyone he has come in contact with during his career. For every problem and difficulty he has had in his life, he uses racial discrimination as being the root cause of the problem.
Among the issues at which he rages, as reported in the Sunday Times, are that he would have been captain of England for 10 years but for his colour, that the Spurs players were the ‘likely source’ of gay slurs, that he left West Ham as a youth player over racism and that Tim Sherwood the current Tottenham manager, wanted to be captain when he arrived at Spurs in 1999 and had the backing of then manager, George Graham.
He reports at length on his side of the parting of the ways from Tottenham, moving to Arsenal on a Bosman free transfer and the hostility he faced from Spurs fans, including his brother, Tony, who was in the crowd at White Hart Lane for his return as an Arsenal player.
Sol Campbell has always been his own man and throughout his footballing career he made decisions as he saw it as ibest suited him. Even with the passing of time there appears to be no understanding of how Tottenham fans felt when he made that decision to leave Spurs and move on a free transfer to their nearest neighbours and greatest rivals.
Sol Campbell at Tottenham
Sol Campbell made his Tottenham debut in December, 1992 In the first season of the Premiership, coming on as a late substitute against Chelsea at White Hart Lane. He scored a late consolation goal in a 2 – 1 defeat.
Campbell went on to captain Spurs to a Worthington Cup success at Wembley against Leicester City in 1999 and in total made 315 appearances for Spurs in his nine years in the first team. He scored 15 goals in all competitions.
Tottenham fans idolised Campbell as he had come into the first team after progressing through the club’s youth system. He was he stalwart at the centre of the defence and it was hoped that he would lead the club to greater things with fans anticipating him forming a central defensive partnership with the next young player who had developed through the youth teams, Ledley King.
It was not to be, however, and the break up was acrimonious. His last appearance for Spurs came only days after Glenn Hoddle had been appointed manager. It was in the FA Cup semi-final defeat at Old Trafford in April, 2001. With Spurs leading by a single goal, Campbell gave away a free-kick but injured himself in the process and went off. From that free-kick Arsenal equalised and went on to reach the Final.
Campbell Goes to Arsenal
3rd July, 2001: BETRAYAL!!
That’s how every Tottenham fan felt, and still feels about Campbell’s move to Arsenal. After months of rumour, speculation and denial Campbell opted to leave Spurs, the club which had nurtured and developed his career as a player in the Premier League and as an England international. He was captain of the club and had led them to Cup success two years earlier. The club and the fans felt betrayed by his decision to leave but particularly because of his decision to sign for the other north London club on a Bosman free transfer, having let his contract run out.
Having maintained for months that he had no reason to leave Tottenham and having been offered incredible amounts to stay, he eventually showed his true colours and made the most detestable move possible, in the eyes of every Tottenham supporter. If he had signed for any other club, the fans would have been disappointed but would have wished him well but by going to Arsenal he brought scorn and hatred upon himself.
When the two clubs met for the first time after the transfer, at White Hart Lane the following November, the main focus of attention was on the return of Sol Campbell. The atmosphere was extremely hostile as Spurs fans vented their anger against their former captain both outside and inside the ground.
Angry, Bitter, Unhappy Campbell enjoyed great success at Arsenal adding two League titles and three FA Cup wins to his League Cup success with Spurs. He was a member of their ‘Invincibles’ team which went through the league season undefeated. He later won the FA Cup with Portsmouth and made 73 appearances for England, captaining his country 3 times.
All of that success appears to mean nothing to Campbell who comes across as being full of anger. In retirement he can’t look back and enjoy thoughts of the great success he experienced as even that isn’t enough. He was only captain of England on three occasions – Tottenham legend, Alan Mullery, was a captain of his country on only one occasion but Mullery regards it as a great honour, not something to quibble about. In his book, ‘Alan Mullery – the Autobiography’ he writes,
I played only four more games for England……..For me, the most memorable of these games was our 1 – 0 win in Malta in February 1971. Bobby Moore was unavailable and Alf made me captain for the day, an honour I still treasure…..’
Campbell has frequently spoken about his lack of opportunities in coaching and management since he finished playing football and again regards it as a racist issue.
In retirement, Campbell should be able to reflect with enjoyment on the success of his career and the great wealth and opportunities it has created for him rather than be constantly raging against the whole of football who have united to deny and distance themselves from the claims and accusations which appear in his autobiography.