Former England International Sol Campbell announced his retirement yesterday due to injury after a 20-year career playing for Tottenham, Arsenal, Portsmouth, Notts County and Portsmouth.
Although the married footballer constantly denied rumours surrounding his sexuality, this did not stop Campbell being the target of homophobic abuse – an issue previously covered by GSB. In fact, his brother John was jailed in 2005 for assaulting a man who questioned the 37 year-old’s sexuality.
QPR and Watford fans may have always preferred Dan Shittu, but here at GSB, we’ll take this opportunity to salute five of Campbell’s five finest moments.
2006 Champions League Final
Down to ten men after goalkeeper Jens Lehman was sent off early in the first half, it seemed only a matter of time before a Barcelona side featuring the likes of Ronaldinho, Deco and Samuel E’to tore Arsenal apart in the 2006 Champions League Final. Campbell was charged with marshalling the Gunners’ defence to keep Frank Rijkaard’s men at bay.
A rare attack on the Barcelona goal resulted in a free-kick in a dangerous area for the men from north London. Thierry Henry whipped the ball across the box, and Sol’s head did the rest, putting his side ahead against the run of play. Two late Barca goals broke Gunners’ hearts, but for a moment Campbell had Arsenal fans believing.
Sol made his England debut in May 1996, as a substitute in the friendly against Hungary. A member of Terry Venables’ Euro 96 squad, Campbell was also selected for international duty at France 98, Euro 2000, the 2002 World Cup, Euro 2004 and Germany 2006 – becoming the first England player to be picked for six consecutive major international tournaments.
Sol’s defining moment in an England shirt came in the 1998 World Cup second-round match against Argentina. After David Beckham’s sending off England were forced to defend with ten men. But in injury time, Campbell headed what he thought was the winning goal, celebrated like he had won the World Cup, only to see his effort had been disallowed and Argentina had restarted play quickly and were attacking David Seaman’s goal. England later went out on penalties – but those 30 seconds summed up perfectly the experience of being an England fan.
Four years later, Campbell got his one and only England goal – netting in England’s 1-1 draw with Sweden in the 2002 World Cup. He was named in Fifa’s team of the tournament – recognising the best performances at the finals.
Captaining Portsmouth to FA Cup glory
After leaving Arsenal in 2006, Campbell signed a two-year deal with Portsmouth, then managed by Harry Redknapp. His finest hour in a Pompey shirt came when he captained the side in their FA Cup Final Victory over Cardiff in 2008, bringing european football, and matches against the likes of AC Milan to Fratton Park for the first time.
In the 2003/2004 season, Arsenal won the Premier League title. Their record: played 38, won 26, drawn 12, lost 0 – as they became the first team since the league was established in 1992 to go an entire season unbeaten. The Gunners owed a huge debt to the centre-back partnership Campbell established with Kolo Toure as they conceded just 26 goals all season. For his efforts, Campbell was named in the PFA team of the year.
Ignoring the abuse
In Summer 2001, Spurs captain Sol Campbell announced his decision to leave White Hart Lane at the end of his contract, making the short journey to Highbury to sign for north London rivals Arsenal on a free transfer. Campbell’s decision incensed Tottenham fans who labelled him a “judas”. The two clubs’ fixture at White Hart Lane became one of the early talking points of the 2001-2002 season. Campbell was booed by Tottenham fans from the moment he set foot on the pitch to warm-up, to the final whistle. The game ended in a 1-1 draw, but Campbell’s decision to join the Gunners was vindicated as they went on to win a League and FA Cup double in his first season at the club.
Although Campbell left Arsenal in 2006, he endured torrid abuse from Spurs fans whenever he faced his former club, yet his professionalism did not lapse. Beyond his performances on the pitch, this could well be Sol Campbell’s lasting legacy in English football.