Why we must end the Sol Campbell Saga

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

After the beauty and nostalgia that was thick in the air at White Hart Lane following our defeat of Man Utd in our final game at the old stadium, it was refreshing to look back this morning and see many of the old players and staff walk back onto the turf for a final time to rapturous applause. Seeing different generations, from Cliff Jones to Ledley King, strolling out and basking in the applause they deserve after giving so much joy to the fans at the Lane was a truly lovely moment. However, my real pleasure was in the fact that we did not let an issue that was dominating discussion in the days before the game overshadow our big day: By the choice to make Sol Campbell persona non-grata on the day. Frankly, the whole hatred and controversy surrounding Sol needs to be put to bed finally now, once and for all. Hence my decision to write this article in the hope that maybe all the chants and vitriol will not be carried from the Lane into the new stadium.

For anyone unaware of the situation (although I’m not sure you can be as a football fan), back in 2001, Sol was our captain who decided that he wanted to leave. Despite passionate pleas for him to stay, he chose to run down his contract and leave. This isn’t exactly a unique practice but Sol’s choice to join Arsenal over any other club in the world still rankles with Spurs fans, even today. Sky Andrew (Sol’s agent who negotiated the move) came out recently and said it was unfair that Sol had not been invited to join in the closing ceremony, as a former Captain and fan favourite at the Lane. In all honesty, I thought it was extremely tactless of Andrew to try and overshadow our big day by flaring up the Campbell controversy but sadly it is something that repeatedly comes up every season.

The chants that some Spurs fans echo are disgusting. It has to be said. Do I like Sol for what he did? Of course not. But spewing vile racist, homophobic, and death-threatening chants on the terraces shouldn’t be a part of our culture, nor any other teams. By and large, our fans are wonderful (hearing ‘There’s only one Aaron Lennon’ sung around the lane yesterday was a fantastic gesture) but the truth is those who sing such awful taunts should be ashamed of themselves. It wouldn’t be out of place at a Millwall game. I’m all up for giving players stick and some chants bantering with players are hilarious but hearing our own sing about Sol hanging from a tree cannot be condoned.

On the other hand, Sol has never exactly helped himself out with the Spurs fans. He has claimed that he wanted to stay at Spurs and his hand was forced but we can never know the truth of the chain of events that unfolded. The fact of the matter is that Sol should have known the consequences of his actions. Look, in the 9 years he was at the club, he won 1 trophy: The Worthington Cup. Can he be blamed for thinking that Spurs were not going to match his high ambitions? The honest answer is no. We were generally quite a poor side in the mid to late 90’s, we had some wonderful attacking players but were often let down by a weak defence and that really showed no sign of changing in the new millennium. Spurs fans could have sympathised with his desire to leave and challenge for titles and European trophies and if he had joined any other side, at home or abroad, it is likely he would have been forgiven and invited back to the Lane yesterday. Look at Luka Modric, he practically threatened to go on strike to force through his move to Real Madrid but we understood that we could not match his ambitions at the time. The result is that Luka is now a double-winning Champions League player and he has universal love with the Spurs fans who still recognise his greatness. At the end of the day, Sol chose to join the one club which was considered a betrayal for Spurs fans. Clearly, he did not want to relocate from London and he felt Arsenal could help him reach greater heights. That’s fine, but he must accept that choice was always going to sever any affection from his former club.

Sol’s problem is that he has always maintained an air of arrogance about the situation. Obviously, I don’t know Sol personally but he strikes me as an arrogant man. I remember reading Harry Redknapp’s autobiography where he recalls an anecdote about Sol complaining about the state of Portsmouth’s training ground, until Harry puts him in his place by reminding him where he grew up playing football on horrible pitches in London. Surely Sol would have realised he would not encounter the same facilities at Portsmouth than he had at Arsenal or Spurs? There’s nothing wrong with wanting the best for yourself in life but I get the impression Sol always considered himself better than he was and always aspired to climb the social ladder. (hence his failed campaign to be the Tory candidate for London Mayor) In the end, that sort of behaviour can alienate you from people.

At the end of the day, making a decision as big as moving from Spurs to Arsenal will always be a two-sided coin. Professionally, he made the completely right decision for his career in terms of winning trophies. During his time at Arsenal, he won 2 league titles (playing a huge part in the Invincibles season), 3 FA Cups and a Community Shield, as well as reaching the Champions League final. Do you know what we won in the same period? Nothing. At Arsenal, he played with the likes of Martin Keown and Tony Adams. If he had stayed at Spurs, it would have been Noureddine Naybet and Anthony Gardner. It cannot be argued that Arsenal were in a different league to us in the early 2000’s. However, Sol cannot realistically expect to have any support from Spurs fans ever again after choosing to make that move. If he cannot see why Spurs fans would not want him at the Lane for the farewell ceremony after leaving for our biggest rivals (and being hugely successful with them), he is either arrogant or stupid.

However, my main point is that we are in a different time now to how we were 15 years ago. We have a chance to build on our successful season and become the predominant team in the country. The same cannot be said back when Sol Campbell left us, hence the hatred and vitriol that was thrown at him because we knew we could not accept we were underperforming and watching one of our own leave us for our biggest rivals turned disappointment into anger, pain into jealousy and masqueraded itself in bitterness. We have a chance to be better than all that now. And we can do this by finally putting the Campbell saga to bed and cease the hateful chanting and bitterness because we have a bright future to look forward to. The best way to sum up the changing state of affairs in North London is through one simple question.

If Sol Campbell was in the same position today, who would he choose?

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  1. I wouldn’t let Campbell in Haringey, let alone WHL. He personifies arrogance and will never understand what he did. However, we should never sing songs about him because it only shows how much it affected us. Ignore this ‘mother of all ego’s’ as if he never existed.

  2. Seems like a reasoned argument until you factor in that you have omitted to mention the most important fact around this whole sorry saga. That is, that during the final year of his contract he was quoted on many occasions stating that it was his intention to stay and the contract would eventually be sorted. That turned out to be a lie, allowing him to leave on a free and pocketing a huge signing on fee, thus preventing us from receiving what would have been a substantial transfer fee. I was at the Lane, when Pat Jennings first returned in an Arsenal shirt to a standing ovation, it is not the fact that Campbell went to Arsenal that has made him into this Pariah but the fact that he lied and contrived and in doing so cost us a great deal of money. I agree that some of the chants and songs are really near the knuckle but you will never convince a Spurs fan that they should forgive and forget. Judas he is and Judas he will stay.

  3. it was the way in which he did it! NOT the simple way you write “back in 2001, Sol was our captain who decided that he wanted to leave. Despite passionate pleas for him to stay, he chose to run down his contract and leave” He repeatedly said he would sign a new contract at the end of the season but didn’t – we all know what he did do. Are you perhaps his agent trying to patch up something unreparable???

  4. A well argued piece Jimmy, but I was always proud to sing a football song that was unique with its biblical references. As Aitch pointed out, it was his deceptions that made him persona non grata not the fact that he went to the Scum-I was also there for Pat’s return to WHL. So Judas he was, Judas he stays. I’ve forgotten about him already. Owards and upwards Spurs!!

  5. Oh come on! Take into account the rivalry between the two clubs, its the same as your wife running off with your best mate. I accept the point that he was ambitious and wasn’t likely, at that time, to win anything at Spurs, but, it wasn’t what he did, it was how he did it. Sky Andrews intonated that he was speaking to Barcelona and other clubs abroad – he would never sign for the Scum, he said. Teddy Sheringham did the same thing, but he went to Man Utd, was upfront about his intentions, and as you say, we could all understand that, as much as it might hurt. BUT not only did Sol poo on us from a staggering height, he also wangled a free transfer for himself, after all those years, it was self first, self second and self last, but all the lies and the deception. How many of us tell our children that “the lie actually becomes worse than what you did”? Still all that said, if it had been any other club, any other club, then we would have all largely forgotten about it now; Dimitar Berbatov was given a warm welcome yesterday, and he didn’t leave the Lane in the most loving of exits. Campbell was just greedy, deceitful, and everything else that most people find abhorrent in his actions, and Andrews helped him. And why does everybody remember what Judas did, thousands of years later? Because it was immoral then, and we still feel it to be immoral now. I am the least hateful person you could find, and and against racism and homophobia. Unfortunately, Campbell cast his own die, the day he signed for that lot up the road, and now he has to live with it. Sometimes in life you make choices that you can never change, and may regret to the day you day. The cynical side of me thinks that he was only worried about not being there yesterday because it would have heightened his profile, not because he realises that he sunk the biggest dagger into the backs of the WHL faithful. Crack on Sol, no one cares.

  6. fuck the gooner cunt that is arsehole campbel cant believe u would argue his case judas barstard scum who we wasted our affections and captains armband on

  7. Forget the Judas Scum he’s insignificant and so is that scum Woolwich team he went to. Spurs are the team to be at the past is the past and Spur’s future is very bright unlike the other side of North London.

  8. Pat Jennings was at the ceremony yesterday. He left Spurs for Arsenal to further his career and had some success in doing so. I cheered his appearance along with everyone else in the stadium. So what’s the difference?

    For me the difference is that Sol Campbell represents everything that is wrong with modern football. When he made his decision to leave the club that brought him through the professional ranks, and he took a huge payoff as part of the “free” transfer negotiations, he did so purely for the benefit of himself and his representatives. He could have gone to a number of clubs and achieved similar success (including that elusive European trophy). Instead he chose to deceive, and ultimately betray, the fans who idolised him. In football terms he could not have made a more damning decision. His motives were 100% selfish with no regard for the affect it would have on his many thousands of fans – young and old. Forget being a Spurs fan, as a Football fan I will never forgive him. Racist and homophobic chanting is never okay but I understand the dislike Spurs fans have for Campbell as I feel it too. What he did will never be forgotten and any real football fan should understand.

    As a final note I’m bored of the racist tag being thrown around liberally. Racism is serious and should be called out appropriately. Never taken lightly. The Sol Campbell song can be accused of being misanthropic, probably homophobic, definitely insensitive to mental illness – but the only racism is in the minds of those that concentrate on the “hanging from a tree” line. He could have been hanging from anything. It just so happens “tree” rhymes with “be”. I have never heard racist Sol Campbell chants at the Lane or any away ground.

    • And actually Gretchen you are spot on, there is nothing in that song that could be labelled racist, and not even untruthful as Judas did hang himself from a tree, so it is only comparison. What he did was complete and utter treachery, unspeakable. Loved this comment!

      • That’s a really good point. Completely missed it.
        I’d like to think that the joker who came up with the line was thinking of Judas’ demise. But I’m guessing it was a (un)happy rhyming accident.

    • My Dad told me about Jennings on Sun, he is in no way comparable with Judas. It was Spurs that wanted to sell him – he was getting a bit old (those being the days that keepers didn’t tend to play on for so long) and we had a promising young keeper coming through so Spurs decided to cash him in. Turned out the promising youngster wasn’t very good, and Jennings went on to play for many more years.

      What Campbell did was unforgivable but I have never liked the chants. For me it’s enough to ignore him as much as possible and ensure he is never welcome back at Spurs.

  9. The racist and homophobic chanting by large numbers of Spurs fans yesterday was an absolute disgrace, you really can’t see the bigger picture can you, it shames your Club, although as usual the media seem to have ignored it..absolutely appalling.

  10. The man is a pig in a nice suit and I wouldn’t want him anywhere near the old ground or the new one. Piss on him.

  11. We are the angry mob we read the papers every day we like who we like we hate who we hate but were also easily swayed. And ill never stop hating that waste of skin.


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