On Sunday I was lucky enough to be invited along on behalf of Gunners Town to an event laid on at the Emirates by our friends at Europcar, to mark the launch of their rather splendid Fans Of The Season competition, which you can find a link to at the end of this piece.
Upon arrival, I was immediately attracted to the delicious looking refreshments that had been laid on…..
Special guest of the day was double winning Invincible Sol Campbell, which prompted me to write a few thoughts about his move to Arsenal. One of the most shocking, controversial and, let’s face it, Spurs-shatteringly hilarious transfers we’ve ever seen….
Sol’s a Gooner
Sol Campbell’s move to Arsenal is one that still fascinates me to this day.
As an Arsenal fan, I feel I have to admire him for having the stones to do what he did, and the way he hit the ground running after the move. Imagine if it had been the other way around though? It doesn’t bare thinking about…..Tony Adams making the move to our hated North London rivals, and winning the double in his first season there!
There is a fine line between love and hate as it is, but that line is even finer when it comes to football supporters relationship with players, even if we don’t realise it most of the time.
There were these Tottenham fans that had literally idolised Sol just a few weeks (days, even) earlier, and then….BANG! All that love is gone the moment he appears alongside Arsene Wenger as it’s announced he has signed for Arsenal, and replaced in an instant with pure, unadulterated hatred.
Hatred that I’m sure, for the most part, hasn’t subsided at all over the years, and why would it?
Not only did Sol cross the North London divide, but he had the gall to win the double in his first season, then make history a couple of seasons later, being an integral part of the team that became The Invincibles.
A team that clinched the league title at White Hart Lane.
Sol at Arsenal had gone from a player too good for that lot up the road, to an absolute beast of a player in a team that was, at it’s peak, unbeatable domestically.
I’m pretty certain that he wouldn’t have achieved that level up the road (in fact Sol himself spoke of the difference between the two clubs back then during a Q & A session on Sunday), so in hindsight, I wonder if any of that lot look at it deep down and think “well, you can’t really blame him for doing what he did…..?”
Arsenal ourselves of course had similar experiences in years that followed, and some Arsenal fans at the time, and in hindsight, have empathised with players such as Robin Van Persie and Ashley Cole, among others, due to their successes after leaving us. (Not me, I hasten to add).
But ask yourself this; if big Tone had gone up the road, would you ever have forgiven him? Or at the very least empathised with him?
It was this that led me to ask Sol if he had ever come across a Spurs fan that had said they understood his decision to make the move he did.
He answered my question without actually answering it, in that he focused more on the fact that he felt that after making the move, he HAD to win something. This is a point I’ve seen him make before, and an easily understandable one too.I think it was also apparent particularly during that first season in the way he played the game.
He wanted it. I asked again if he had actually come across a Spurs fan that had seen any justification in making the move.His answer was that over time maybe there was more chance of them seeing it that way.
Whether any of them have actually told him though, that I don’t know.
By the time Sol had finished answering questions, the game had actually kicked off, which led to a rather surreal moment.
Just as I was shaking him by the hand (his hands are huge by the way!) he looked up at one of the screens showing the game and exclaimed something along the lines of “is that another injury?!” as Laurent Koscielny stood there holding his back (his own back, not Sol’s, that would’ve just been weird.)
So, there I was bemoaning Arsenal’s injury crisis with Sol Campbell.
Not something that often happens on a Sunday afternoon.
Well, not for me anyway.
I can say that Sol was a total gent, and still speaks so fondly of his time at Arsenal.
There was obviously high praise for the squad that he was part of; the depth of talent that was there, while also noting, interestingly, how much more money that costs these days.
The game itself……well, I’m sure you’ve heard enough about it this week to last you a life time. It was, however, a pleasure to watch the game with my friends from The Arsenal History, namely Mark Andrews (@RoyalArsenalMRA) and Andy Kelly (@Gooner_AK), who I learn something new about Arsenal’s history from, every time I see them. You should do the same, give them a follow and check out their fantastic site.
That’s all this week, something a little different from me this time, but sometimes we all need a break from what’s actually going on at the moment!
I’ll be back with something more like my usual stuff next week, hopefully.
You can find details of Europcar’s Fans Of The Season competition, where you can win 5 tickets for your family for Arsenal vs Chelsea, here
Up The Arsenal
Islington born and bred, Arsenal through and through. Supported the Gunners for all of my 46 years (so far!) through thick and thin.
Clickbait: Life as a Modern Football Fan – released 2019
Currently working on my next book – Over Land and Sea (and Lockdown), Arsenal 20/21 – A Diary of a Season – due for release Summer 2021.
I will back the club I have in my blood to the hilt and I don’t care what you think about that. UTA.
AGAINST MODERN FOOTBALL.
Great write up Darren. It was a great afternoon (barring the equaliser and injuries) and good to meet up with you again.