Sol Campbell: Rock Solid

arsenal cb sol campbell

Player Profile: Sol Campbell

Date of Birth: 18/09/1974

Height: 6 ft 2 (1.88 m)

Position: Defender

National Team: England

International Caps: 73

International Goals: 1

Club Career

Born in East London, Sol Campbell played in the youth team at local side West Ham United before moving to northern neighbours Tottenham Hotspur. He would make his first-team debut for the North London side in December 1992, scoring as a substitute against Chelsea. Despite a dream start, he wouldn’t appear again that season.

With Ossie Ardiles taking over as manager in the ‘93/94 season, Campbell was given a role in the side. He made 42 appearances in all competitions that season, often at left or right-back rather than his preferred position in the centre of defence. Campbell’s performances continued to improve, and by the ‘94/95 season, he was asked to be the Spurs captain by new manager Gerry Francis.

Campbell was a vocal leader and took pride in pushing his teammates forward, but Spurs repeatedly had mediocre seasons ending with mid-table finishes. He would see some success during his time at White Hart Lane though, as Tottenham would defeat Leicester City at Wembley to win the League Cup in the ‘98/99 season. They would only finish 11th in the league that season though, not for any lack of trying from Campbell, who would contribute 6 leagues goals and be selected in the PFA Team of the Year.

The following year Spurs would compete in the UEFA Cup, but would lose to Kaiserslautern in the second round. Tottenham’s lack of competitiveness in the league and Campbell’s desire to play regularly in European competitions led to him being disillusioned at the club. When his contract ended in 2001 he controversially moved from Tottenham to their fierce North London rivals Arsenal.

Sol Campbell’s transfer made him extremely unpopular with the Tottenham faithful, earning him the nickname ‘Judas’. On the other hand, Gunners fans adored him for ditching their arch-rivals for Highbury. Campbell stated that he had made the move to fulfil his ambitions for silverware, and the switch was immediately justified. Arsenal won a league and FA Cup double in his debut season. 

He had quickly slotted into central defence at his new club, forming a strong partnership with Arsenal stalwart Tony Adams. His form saw Arsène Wenger praise his new recruit for his powerful defensive abilities, as well as his knack for scoring goals at the other end of the pitch. 

Adams would retire the following year, and Campbell would become the lynchpin of Wenger’s defensive unit. Despite exiting the Champions League in the group stages, Arsenal pushed Manchester United hard in the league and looked on track for another double. While they wouldn’t win the league, they would retain the FA Cup, although Campbell would miss the final through suspension.

The next season would be a historic one for the Gunners, as they would win the Premier League while going unbeaten, becoming known as ‘The Invincibles’. Campbell would play a vital part in this feat, forging a solid partnership in the centre of defence with Kolo Toure and playing 35 games in the league. He was one of six Arsenal players to make the PFA Team of the Year in a team that is remembered as perhaps the best ever in the history of the Premier League.

Campbell would make fewer appearances over the following seasons as he struggled with injuries and form. He would still be part of the FA Cup winning side in ‘04/05, though Phillipe Senderos would be preferred to him in the final.

The following season the Gunners would make their way to the Champions League final, where they would meet a star-studded Barcelona side. Campbell opened the scoring in the first half, but Barcelona went on to win the match 2-1. He would leave the club shortly afterwards in search of a new challenge.

Campbell joined an ambitious Portsmouth side who had signed several experienced Premier League players. He began to get more regular game time again and was made club captain in the ‘07/08 season. Campbell drove the team to an unlikely FA Cup victory that year, which was to be his third time lifting the trophy. The club hit financial difficulty and were nearly relegated the following year, but Campbell remained for that campaign to help them stay afloat.

The following season Campbell signed a four-year deal with League Two club Notts County, but would only go on to play one game for the club. He walked out on the club shortly after his first match, and they agreed to cancel his contract. He returned to train at Arsenal to keep his fitness up but ended up signing a deal to stay for the remainder of the ‘09/10 season.

Campbell would spend the next season at Newcastle United, but barely featured for the Magpies and he would retire after his spell at St James’ Park. A two-time Premier League champion and three-time FA Cup winner, Sol Campbell is a polarising player, but undoubtedly one of the finest centre-backs to play in the Premier League.

International Career

Sol Campbell’s first cap for England came in 1996, as a substitute in a friendly against Hungary. He made the Euro ’96 squad as back up but made just one appearance at the tournament.

The defender became a regular under Glen Hoddle and started every game for his country at the 1998 World Cup. His goal was controversially disallowed against Argentina after Alan Shearer was judged to have impeded the goalkeeper, and England were subsequently knocked out.

He was again first choice in England’s poor Euro 2000 campaign. But by the 2002 World Cup, Campbell and Rio Ferdinand had formed a formidable partnership in central defence. England were a much stronger team at this tournament and looked like they would go far. Still, despite an improved showing, England would lose to eventual champions Brazil in the quarter-finals.

Campbell retained his place for the Euro 2004 tournament where England made it to the quarter-finals. This time they lost to hosts Portugal, in a game that saw Campbell once again have a goal disallowed. While he continued to play for England over the following years, John Terry was usually preferred as first choice centre back. Euro 2004 would be his final major tournament for the Three Lions. He would play his last game for the national team in 2007 and ended his international career with 73 caps.

Where is Sol Campbell now?

After hanging up his boots, Sol Campbell was very keen to get into coaching, and his first role was as the assistant manager of Trinidad and Tobago’s national team. 

He found it difficult to find his own role as a manager and was even considering a role in non-league before League Two side Macclesfield Town appointed him as manager during their poor’ 18/19 season. They were five points from safety when Campbell arrived, and he managed to help them secure their league status on the final day of the season. Despite his success, he would leave the club in August 2019 as they experienced financial issues.

His next managerial job wasn’t far away, though. Campbell was offered a role at League One outfit Southend United in October 2019, where he continues to coach at the time of writing.

Did you know? Interesting facts about Sol Campbell 

– He once attempted to run for the position of the Mayor of London, but was not shortlisted as a candidate.

– Campbell once claimed the FA were ‘institutionally racist’ for never naming him as captain, despite once appearing as England captain in a friendly against the USA.

– He co-owns a property portfolio and high-end furniture company with his wife Fiona valued at over £50 million.