I’ll always condemn the mistreatment of our game’s players, and though I can appreciate why certain fans were peeved off, this stuff was just uncalled for.
Before the words ‘Sol Campbell’ became ensconced within the same sentence as ‘Judas’ – and other equally delightful terms – he was making a name for himself as one of England’s most prized possessions in the centre-back role. Both in the white of the Three Lions shirt … and a similarly pale one for Tottenham Hotspur.
Bursting through the academy in the early ’90s, Sol Campbell is one of those players who I personally look back on and think were ‘ahead of their time’. Especially when compared with what we expect from centre-backs today.
Dominating in the air, comfortable with the ball at his feet … and even with a tendency to burst through the lines and get his side going, there really wasn’t much that this guy couldn’t do.
I still hold him high in that ‘greatest Premier League defenders of all time’ discussion – because he deserves it!
By the turn of the millennium, Sol Campbell was nearing enough a round decade in the heart of Tottenham Hotspur’s plans – whereby he was playing a major role in what was a turbulent time for his favourite club. Right from the boardroom, to the dugout, which then permeated its way onto the pitch, life as a Spurs fan was perhaps even more rough ‘n’ tumble than it appears to be today.
Something Claude Littner discusses in great depth in his book – which I highly recommend, btw!
The stadium was in disarray, the backroom staff in constant disagreement and it all festered into a more-than-inconsistent return on the pitch. Though they were able to attract the odd transfer here and there – David Ginola from Newcastle immediately springs to mind here – their long-term stability was constantly scrutinised.
For a while, Sol Campbell was a shining beacon of hope and prosperity in a sea of uncertainty. He gradually progressed from ‘that young lad from the academy’ to the club captain and had a penchant for key moments either end of the pitch while adorning that treasured armband on his bicep.
That is, until George Graham stepped into the Spurs fold a few years after he took hold of that status …
Check out another one of our features on George Graham’s career by clicking HERE.
Following a rather unfortunate pairing of words by the new manager, Sol Campbell was unsettled by his new boss’ desire for him expecting those below him to ‘work hard’. Speaking almost in direct disdain to the sensibilities of those like Campbell – whom he believed ‘worked hard anyway’. Though this wasn’t the only coming-together between the two men, it was rather poorly timed from a financial point of view.
Not only were they coming to the end of the 2000/01 season, but Campbell’s contract situation hadn’t been agreed ahead of time. And we all know what happens when contracts are left up in the air by this point, right …
… well, it can only be a Bosman free transfer, can’t it!
Only with Sol, the one club that attracted his attention more than others were the one club any Spurs fan would hold against him if he decided to join: Arsenal. Yet, with the hatred between the clubs as strong and distasteful as ever, Sol Campbell made the tummy-dropping decision to join Arsenal for free directly from Tottenham in 2001.
I doubt many players or fans have ‘forgiven’ Campbell for doing this, though it speaks to the brutality of football as well as the size of the cojones on the man. Might not have been the easiest decision. But it was a good one.