Sol-dier of fortune

It’s All Over

We’ve had two years of speculation, debate, stories with no foundation. But it’s all over.

Sol Campbell declared this weekend that he will walk away from Spurs, ten years after his first-team debut as a scoring striker against Chelsea. The 26-year old, up until now, completely revered in one half of North London, chose to sever his long-standing ties in a bid to win regular Champions League football, and better himself as a player.

Nobody can argue with the sentiment. But the way he’s gone about it has left a sour taste in the mouths of the majority of fans.


When Sol dithered over his contract a couple of years ago, nobody was really fearing that he was going to leave. We had two years to convince him otherwise. Sadly, his relationship with the chairman and manager at the time was thought to be strained. But the arrival of ENIC and their subsequent appointment of Glenn Hoddle was seen as the positive step that would secure the club captain for a few more years.

We had a true Spurs backbone running through the club. We had a board that said the right things, and more importantly did the right things. We had the promise of investment, the development of considerable young talent for the first time in years. Surely all this would convince Sol to give the club another 12 months?

For some reason Sol upped and upped his salary demands until he priced himself out of reasonable negotiation. Looking for a reported £20m over three years plus a release clause if Spurs didn’t reach the Champions League by the end of next season, Spurs had no option but to give up their battle to hold on to the club captain.

Look After #1

This kind of behaviour seems to fly in the face of the positive noises that Campbell had made throughout the previous season. All fans were in agreement that Sol loved the club, that he would stay if the Arsenal contingent of Graham/Houston and unpopular chairmanship of Alan Sugar, were removed.

But the reality is that Sol put career before loyalty and essentially turned his back on the club that made him, and the fans that idolised him.

But was he right? Shouldn’t a player look after number one in what is a relatively short career?

Since I’m not walking around Sol’s head (troubled place as it seems to be), and was not present at the negotiations, I can only speculate on what happened and the circumstances surrounding it.

George was Right!

The most likely hypothesis is that Sol had little thought of signing on the dotted line with Spurs. After years of underachievement which saw the captain raise just one trophy over his head, the 1999 Worthington Cup, few could blame him for seeking fame and fortune elsewhere.

The point of controversy is that he rejected the chance to sit down and discuss a new deal for almost two years. Former, and much maligned, manager, George Graham, criticised Campbell for refusing to committ – a comment which caused outrage at the time. How ironic it is that the most loathed man at White Hart Lane was actually right about one of its most loved sons.

But, from favourite son to illegitimate sprog, he became overnight. Campbell now looks like he was always a man on the run. With the last game of the season over, Sol was very eager to reject a deal and subsequently avoid a backlash from the fans. Now the world is his oyster with over half a dozen clubs realistically in with a chance of signing him.

ENIC the Villains?

Another possible scenario is that Sol is not the villain, but rather an anti-hero in all this. Imagine if you will that Sol has seen through ENIC. He sees no investment, he sees nothing to look forward to. He sees empty promises and false dawns. With that in mind, why stick around? But what does he do? Declare to Spurs fans that he does not want to stay as he does not see the club moving forward under the current administration?

Of course not. This would damage the club he loves too much. So in order to avoid this, he asks for a ludicrous clause and a crazy amount of money that he knows he won’t get (and if he does, it’ll be a deal he can’t lose on as he’ll be able to walk away next summer) and sacrifices himself for the fans.

What would you do?

I’m sure most Spurs fans will be standing around the pubs of Tottenham, pint in hand, beer-belly resting against the bar, giving out yards about Sol. “Oi tell you somfink mate. If oi was in that Campbell’s position oi’d play for bloody free I would. ‘E don’t know ‘ow lucky ‘e is”.

Of course the real world is very different and as wonderful as it is for Spurs fans to fantasise that they would be happy with 20 or 30k a week, you can’t put yourself in a position you’ve no comprehension of.

No matter how humble you might be as a person, for your own good, you should always look to better yourself. Look at Matt LeTissier. For many, certainly me, the most uniquely talented player of this generation. But a mixture of laziness and a lack of ambition saw him waste his career at a mediocre club fighting relegation. He may always be viewed as a hero there, but that’s not going to pay the bills in 10 years time.

Sol can’t spend the peak of his career (ie now) at a club that he doesn’t believe is going to make it to the top. I have no problem with that, but what I do have a problem with is the possibility that Sol was never going to stay. I guess without an admission of such, we’ll never know what his intentions were.

So would I have stayed at Spurs if I were in Sol’s position?

If my only choice was a three to four year deal on 80k a week, then maybe not. If Spurs had offered a 12 month deal on the same money then I would like to think I would have repaid the club for helping me develop into a quality player by staying for a further year and seeing how things panned out.

But it’s all over now. Time to look to the future. Anthony Gardner, anyone?

And finally…

Another fantastic year of play-off action in all three divisions mean that for the umpteenth year in a row, knockout competition was the highlight of the domestic calender. After another hugely boring Premiership season, the domestic cup runs of West Ham, Tottenham, Wycombe, Crystal Palace and Tranmere produced some memorable matches, as did the domestic and European finals.

With this in mind, how about turning the Premiership into a knockout compeition played in April and May of each year. This would leave clubs free to do more important things for the rest of the year like float on the stock exchange, release new jerseys every three months, open restaurants, move stadiums, raise season ticket prices and demean their fans in the press.

Is it cynical of me to look forward to the bursting of this particular bubble?


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