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Mishcon Academy: Digital Sessions - In conversation with Sol Campbell

Posted on 28 February 2024

In February, Sol Campbell spoke to Partner and Head of Sports Law Simon Leaf, discussing his career as an English footballer, coach, and football manager.

Sol is best known for his time at Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, where he was part of the 'Invincibles' team that went unbeaten in the 2003-2004 Premier League season. Sol earned 73 caps for the England national team and represented his country in six major tournaments. After retiring from professional football, he transitioned into coaching and has managed clubs including Macclesfield Town and Southend United. Sol will be talking about his career as a player and a manager.

 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

So, welcome everyone to the special edition of the Mishcon Academy.  I’m Simon Leaf, I’m a Partner in the Innovation Team here and anybody that knows anything about me will know that I’m a massive Arsenal fan so, very, very, hopefully got some other Arsenal fans in the room, very, very excited about today.  I’m absolutely delighted to welcome a true footballing legend.  From his early days at Tottenham Hotspur making a bold mark in the Premier League to his controversial and brave switch to local rivals, Arsenal and he became an invincible.  Sol Campbell’s career has been nothing short of remarkable.  He not only appeared in nineteen consecutive Premier League seasons from its inception in 1992 but he’s also, I am pleased to say, a two-time Premier League champion, multiple FA Cup winner and he also won the League Cup but we don’t need to talk about that, that too much over the next, over the next hour.  He's also a figure who graced the international stage, earning 73 caps for England, representing his country in a record-breaking six consecutive tournaments.  Off the pitch Sol’s journey has been equally compelling, where his ventures into management, to his outspoken views on the game’s pressing issues, as well as more recently becoming involved in some exciting new business ventures that we’ll talk about a little bit later as well.  So today we delve into the experiences that have shaped his illustrious career and the wisdom he has garnered along the way and in particular what lessons we can all learn from such an inspiring individual.  So please join me in giving a warm welcome to Sol Campbell.

Okay, well I’d like to start by talking about…

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

That’s the best intro.  I really liked your intro. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

I want to talk about some of the early moments in your life and growing up in East London.  Can you just tell us a little bit more about what that was like and how it’s kind of shaped your career from…

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Well it’s, you know, growing up in the ‘70s in East London, very multicultural, 2.12 Stratford, obviously Stratford’s not Stratford and how it looks now but you know it used to be a huge kind of dump of stone and behind there used to be all factories and warehouses and obviously it’s you know it’s changed now and it’s, it’s amazing now but back in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, that wasn’t the case.  So, you know, nine brothers and two sisters I grew up with, not all in the same house but at one stage there must have been about seven in the house so…

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

You were the, you were the youngest, right?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

I’m the baby, I’m always going to be the baby but you know it’s, it is what it is, being the baby of the house you kind of, you look and listen and learn and you can’t really say too much because you just get drowned out so, you get into the stage of like just observing and that’s my early stages of just kind of looking and seeing what’s happening, learning from mistakes from mainly my brothers who are, who are older than me so, yeah, nice, loving kind of family but tough, extremely tough, you know, money was extremely tight, I had a really great group of friends, I had kind of diverse friends, I had friends who, who you know who would like love playing football and then I’d have and other friends who, who kind of loved getting into trouble so, you kind of, you get that kind of diverse and you’ve just got to make sure, you know, you’re not getting sucked into the, you know the bad way of lifestyle some of your friends, you know you’re friends because you go to school and you like them but obviously you know some of them are just a little bit different, you know, when they, when they go out and they’ve got a certain kind of, I don’t know, people around them, they kind of change, it’s like sometimes being at a football game, you know, the, a supporter comes in, really nice, great job, blah, blah, blah and then enters the football ground and then all of a sudden they change into something totally different, you know, so like for me, tough, loving, great lifestyle but none the wiser, you know, if I kind of look back and I see, look at the life, it was, it was pretty tough but because you’re young and you’re kind of bold, you just get on with it, everyone’s in the same boat, you just kind of think this is normal, this is the, this is life, you know, tough and you know you’ve just got to, you grow up quick, you’ve got to be fast, you can’t be slow, you just get overtaken or you just kind of, you don’t get on in life so you’ve got to, you work out how to be, you know, nimble and understanding kind of you know situations very quickly, you’re not green behind the, you know, you’re not naïve even though you’re young but you had to do that and then that kind of led into football as well, you know.

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

So at what point did you realise that you had a talent for the game?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

For me, you don’t realise you’ve got a talent because you’re just in your local area.  Yeah, you love football, I loved playing football, you know, sometimes you just play and just, I just enjoyed it, you know I went to not the best school when it comes to football, they were pretty average, there’s a couple of other schools are really good.  My Sunday league team wasn’t the best, I didn’t, you know, I didn’t really, my District team was not too bad but you don’t really know because I’m not kind of gauging myself, I’m not playing anyone up North, I’m not playing anyone across London, I’m not playing someone, you know, different country, you’re kind of just in your own bubble, training, playing, enjoying football, making mistakes and you know getting injured, you know things like that, having bragging rights when you beat a team, that kind of stuff and you learn all that process.  For me, I just loved playing, I didn’t, I wasn’t gauging myself.  What I was doing, I was looking at certain players and certain older players how they were playing and what kind of skill and how and also, for me, how do I get the better of them as well because obviously they’re bigger and stronger so I have to kind of go work out well, I’m nine years old, he’s eleven, you know if I, if I keep going like this, I’m not going to enjoy my football and the game, I’m always going to get knocked out the first round and I’m waiting on the sideline for half an hour, so you have to work out, those are little things for the kids really, that’s your world, you know not worrying about mortgages and taxes and things like that but you know you’re just worried about ooh, how can I get the better of this guy, you know, and then go back, go to sleep, go to school and come back and you play the same guy or same, different friends and you just learn how to negotiate different people, different skillsets and that kind of took me on to football, you know, further on when I, you know, from youth football into the 1st Team, I always kept that, I’ve always looking and watching patterns and movements and how to get the better off my opponent and also aware of the, aware of their attributes and what’s their deficiencies and you have to really process it really quickly.  Now, guys have all data or he’s good on his left, he’s bad on his right or whatever, you know I had to work, you know kids my age, back in those days, you had to work it out, you didn’t have data.

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Am I right in thinking there were, there wasn’t a kind of one set position that you were destined to play, you actually, you played around the park and different positions. 

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Yeah.  I, I kind of, so I played a little bit in mid-field but I did a couple of cycles when it came to a position I played sweeper, you know, I don’t know if anyone remember sweeper in this house, in this room, but I played sweeper, centre half, forward and mid-field and I did that kind of cycle for about, you know, at least six-seven years and then I kind of settled in mid-field, went to Lilleshall at fourteen, scholarship, the FA organised that, went on for about fifteen years, sixteen years, just the best 32 senior, junior boys in the country and they were kind of the brightest sparks, the brightest, you know, potential to kind of make it all the way.  Only a few made it all the way but it was a good programme for me. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

So just kind of focussing then on Lilleshall, so this was kind of the FA’s school of excellence at the time, as you say, kind of best players from all around the country.  How, how different an environment was that to what you were used to in East London?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Er, chalk and cheese but I was, I was ready for that because you know from a chaotic lifestyle, I just loved being outside, I didn’t want to be inside, there’s no space inside my home, so I, you know I was in the garden or on the streets so, for me to kind of have you know opportunities, there’s like four trials, two at Bisham Abbey and then Lilleshall so you had to go four trials to get, to get through, so that’s a lot of football and then they check your kind of mentality, your grades and things like that, your school work, all that, all that kind of stuff to kind of balance it all out but for me, you know, it’s, it was the first time I saw country, the real countryside because it’s in the middle of Shropshire, two hours, three hours away from home so it’s completely different and also I had my own bed, I had to share my bed for such a long time, you know, in my own house so, things like that, you know some of the boys had their own beds at their home but that was a real luxury for me, have my own bed, my own wardrobe and my own chest-of-drawers or whatever so, and a shower, I’d never had a shower, you know I had a bath and that was it so, all these things are you know, they was, you know, incredible for me because I just took it all and I said do you know what, I’m going to, I’m going to take all the, all the knowledge, all the training, all the ups and down experiences that Lilleshall has got to give and I’m going to take it and I’m going to see how far I’m going to run with it and I enjoyed myself, you know, some of the lads got homesick, I understand that, but I just looked and I said do you know what, my parents said, “just go on this, go for it”, they wanted me out of there, they knew that, you know, East London wasn’t, you know the place to be, it was very difficult and they saw this and said “well, you got in, take it and see where you end up” so, one of the good things that my parents you know really pushed and said look, because I was umming and ahing about it, if I wanted to go to Lilleshall you know in the middle of nowhere, I’d never heard of Shropshire in my life but really it was the making of me.

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Were there any particularly, any kind of particular skills that you picked up kind of off the field whilst you were in that kind of environment that stayed with you for the rest of your career?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

There’s one particular one.  A really lovely man called Craig Simmons who’s, he’s like the physio, you know, kind of a fitness guy, so far you know ahead of his time mentality-wise, so there was a test and so I had to kind of 3000 metres, shuttles, beep test, I don’t know if anyone’s heard of beep tests, but speed, jumping, circuits, so it was a whole kind of thing, it was like a 360 kind of, you know, looking at where you are physically, not skill-wise, so I had the skill, I had the ability but you know so, I did that and then I remember I was on the 3000 metres and I was you know a couple of goalkeepers were around me and I was saying, “I’m bloody last” and I was just knackered and I said it really dawned on me and I thought “bloody hell Sol, what’s going on, you’ve got the skill but fitness-wise you’re all over the place” and some of the boys had good you know stamina and so they had their kind of their timings and their average, so you get, you take the average and great so, when Simmo put the list on the wall in the changing rooms, I looked at it and I said “wow, I’m fifteenth, I’ve got one keeper behind me, it’s not looking good Sol, it’s not looking good and you’ve got to do something about this” so, that’s me, I kind of took it on myself in a private way, I didn’t really say anything and I worked at it so I took every single, every single exercise, so I, so during the week I did the 3000 metres again and I had to play on a Sunday as well, so training, I did the extra 3000 metres and time myself and then I went on to, and this was on a Saturday, so this was on Saturday and I’ve got a game the next day on a Sunday and then on alternative kind of week I did the shuttles, I timed myself, so I did everything again for about a couple of months.  I remember one of my, one of my friends kind of, his name’s Jude McDougal, he used to see me walking to the distance over to the training field and he used to think, he told me, you know, recently, “I saw you, you know walking off with a towel and thinking like what’s he doing” and that’s what I was doing, I was just really just lowkey, getting my kind of, my fitness up, understanding the levels I needed to kind of get to, to compete with the rest of the fifteen boys because I knew I had to kind of catch up, I can’t just like you know lounge around and think oh I’m skilful but you know knackered in sixty minutes.  So…

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

It’s almost kind of frowned upon isn’t it in…

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

I had to keep it low because I didn’t want to be like a teacher’s pet thing.

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

What is that about?  In all seriousness, there is that kind of stigma that still is there with, you see it in football, you don’t necessarily see it in other sports.  Do you think that’s still the case now or has it moved on that actually?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

I’m not too sure, I’m not too sure but everyone does extras anyway, extras after training and things like that but this was like proper, this was like I’m doing a full set of training exercises again in the week so, and then two months later you had the test, the same test again so, I’m, but he’s split it up so some were doing 3000, some were doing the shuttles, some were doing sprint test, so you mixed it up, so no one really knew where anyone, you know, the level and then at the end of all that, after about I think, I think it was a week’s training session or after two weeks, he puts it back on the board and I’m joint third or fourth…

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Amazing.

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

…and the lads say, “what the hell’s going on there, how’s he like take my…”, yeah, because I worked bloody hard.  I used to do circuits in the shower, so I used to do circuits every night, showers, brum, brum, brum, turn the shower on and there was a little ledge where I did all my exercise, so I did all that, you know, in my own time and it paid, you know, paid off really because that work ethic took me all the way from fourteen to sixteen and then when I got back into Tottenham, they saw me at thirteen years old and I was like yeah, whatever, he’s okay player but when I came back at sixteen, you know, I wasn’t mucking around, I was a different kind of, different type of player altogether and they were shocked, they, and then almost it’s like they keep you in a capsule and said “oh he's thirteen” but then when I got through, I’m a different, I was a man, playing-wise, you know, except the experience, everything else is all put together because I worked two years, all the others had been mucking around and doing whatever but I’d been working solidly and my school work and things like that and I was just being what I’m concentrating on this and then when I got to sixteen, I was like way ahead of everybody. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

And just kind of focussing then on that kind of work ethic, do you think a lot of that came from your, from your parents?  Again, just kind of referring back to the book.  It appears that you know they were very kind of hardworking but you know not always as supportive as…?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Yeah, you know, I had to kind of, you know, my family were very strict and tough, you know, it was the ‘70s and ‘80s, it’s so different now, you know lifestyle-wise, you know it’s, it was tough in the ‘70s and ‘80s, it wasn’t easy and you had to kind of get on and just you know not suck it up but just figure out a way of kind of getting on and that work ethic has stayed with me and then that, that kind of, you know, when I saw I was fifteenth out of sixteen boys, it kind of hurt me and I said well, I said well, what are you going to do about it, are you going to just play football and just kind of you know be around the, you know, top ten of sixteen boys?  No, I want to, I’m a winner, I want to show what I can do.  So, yeah, that kind of attitude.  When you’re in East London and places like that, similar, it’s not easy, so you, you’ve kind of got that kind of mentality, that grinding mentality, that determination to kind of get to the top, whatever you want to, whatever industry you’re in and it’s just, it’s kind of stuck with me and, and also it kind of balanced me, it anchors me as well, I think it’s a good thing to have that, I mean not everyone needs to have my type of lifestyle to get to the top, I’ve just used this to, this particular way to get to the top. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

And you know, you have had to overcome some you know serious adversity along the way and one of the things that stood out for me was just some of the racism you’ve been subject to from a very early age, so I’m talking about your time at West Ham and it would just be kind of interesting to know how you’ve overcome those sorts of incidents and you know what advice you would give to other people you know suffering you know that sort of discrimination in the workplace.

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

That was really a weird situation because I used to take the 86 bus from Stratford to Chadwell Heath so, twelve years old and you travel, Chadwell Heath, you get off and you walk a little bit and then that’s where the training ground is so, one of the days I’m not smiling all the time, you know, you don’t need to have a smile on your face to be happy, so typical training session, finished the training session, was it twelve, I’m twelve, I’m kind of twelve nearly thirteen and a guy comes up to me and said well, “cheer up, Sol, you’re 2-1 up” and I’m thinking “what does he mean 2-1 up, what’s going on here” and then “yeah, 2-1 up, West Indies versus England” and I said to myself, “so, I’m not English then?” so, for me, it’s like I said to myself, “how do you deal with this?” but the flip side of that as well, the guy was mixed race, you know, that’s the complexity of it, you know, it’s really like whoa, I’m actually born in England and you know okay, my family’s from Jamaica, you’re mixed race and you’re saying cheer up, you’re 2-1 up, it’s like what, what are you saying and then from that day, I never turned up, I just left, I wasn’t having that anymore, I wasn’t having that situation.  I was really kind of a stickler for that kind of behaviour and talking, I was just you know what, I’m too young, I know I feel I know that’s wrong and I’m not having that and I just left, I went back to District football and so funny, I was, when I got into Tottenham, I was still living round East London and I went into Barclays Bank and I popped into Barclays Bank and the clerk behind the, on the other side, he saw my name and said, “You’re blah, blah, blah, what happened at West Ham?” so even he kind of knew like, how did he leave West Ham, why did he leave West Ham and then, you know, turn up at Tottenham?  And I said, I actually didn’t want to go into it, I said “oh well I just left because whatever” I just you know took my cheque or whatever and I did my whatever I had to do and I left.  It's interesting though I still remember that like it was yesterday, you know the clerk actually saying, “hey, you was at West Ham, what happened?” you know, that’s the reason why I left. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

It seems to be a kind of recurring theme you know throughout your life, you know the example that you give is the fact that you know here you were, you kind of represented England on all of these occasions and yet, you know, Michael Owen was being selected as a captain ahead of you, I mean how, you know, how have you kind of reflected on that now?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

That was tough.  That was tough.  I mean, when you had Kevin Keegan as the manager, I had a meeting, I had a meeting when I, I used to live in a place called Hertford, it’s in Hertfordshire, so one of the executives came down and said we want you, we need to talk to you, they want to kind of, Kevin Keegan wants you to be manager, I mean, wants you to be captain so, so, they obviously had to sit down, went out for dinner, had a quick coffee and like, light bite, and then from that against Germany, Didi Hamann scores that goal in a wet Wembley and then Keegan said, “Right, I’m resigning, see you later” so then, then the complexity, then the whole kind of you trying to get to the top and be a captain, it kind of ooh, it changes very rapidly because now the main person who wants you in that position has gone, he’s vacated, he’s said that’s it, I’m, I’m not doing this job anymore.  So then obviously, okay, okay, and then you’ve got the tussle between me and Becks and things like that, fine, okay, he gets the, I was injured, he gets the captaincy, fine, but then you become, at that time you could become a good, really good player, then you become an amazing player and then you become one of the best players in your position and then you, two, three years, the best defender pound a pound around the world and you’re captain the domestic side and then I went from captain, potential captain, to vice-captain, to no captain, it’s like I’ve gone this way in my performances for England and my country and I’ve got so far away from being captain or even vice-captain, it was like, it was just swiped from me and said well, no, you’re no longer this, you’re no longer in this kind of camp, this is the way we’re going and that was it, and you know, it, even, I’ve said it before, I said, “Mike Owen is not a captain”, I’ve said that before, he knows that but it’s all about PR and things like that, it was a totally different era of, of being a captain for England, it was very PR led, heavy led and a lot of the guys would say that, there was a lot of animosity in the sense that it took too long for that to kind of dissipate and just drop away, I mean we’re going to have to 22.01 and try to win a World Cup or European Cup, there was a lot going on and it was very PR led, not like that now, so it’s great but when I was around, it was like that.  For me, it was like I came close and I was just, it was like a different galaxy, I was nowhere near but my performances were amazing and I was captain for my own sides and winning and doing everything on paper correctly and then I was so far away from being even vice-captain, I was obviously in the committee but I was never, it was almost that the hand, the armband was passed around me but never to me, it was bizarre. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Yeah, that must have been, must have been painful.  I mean, as you mentioned, you were kind of captain of your team, Spurs, through quite a difficult time you know, in the mid-‘90s and they were a struggling side, you know often kind of finishing mid-table, kind of lower half of the table and you know many people say that you kind of singlehandedly you know kind of kept them up some seasons, you know you were ever present for them in some of those seasons.  Looking at your period as captain, you know, how did you motivate the team that was clearly, you know, filled with players that weren’t kind of fully on board or you know certainly not performing to the levels that you would expect from a team like Spurs?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Erm, first of all, being captain was, was, was a tremendous kind of honour.  I think being captain and leading the ship of anything or any company is always a privilege and you have to kind of respect it and for me, you know I took the captaincy of one of the older players, that was then, then you have to negotiate that internally in the changing rooms, I’m like 20, 21, I’m taking the captaincy of someone who’s 28, 29, 30 but I’m ever present so, you know, Jerry Francis gave me a couple of days to think about it and I thought about it and said do you know what, yeah, I’m going, I’m going to take it on.  As time goes on, you have players come in, come in and out, I mean we, I think at one stage we might have had maybe three, four decent players, the rest were just, the rest were just on for a ride, you know, it was like Lilywhites, you know, everyone was like Jack the Lad and things like that, all worrying about how they were looking and like have we got nice boots and, and, but on the pitch it wasn’t transferring to the pitch, it was like almost you know it was, it was football was the last thing on their minds, it’s like well, we’re going to win this game and then you’re, and then I’ll have some older players with more experience than me saying oh god, we’re playing Liverpool and Man United or other team or I’ve got a hamstring or I’m feeling a bit tight and I’m thinking, I’m working my socks off, I don’t care who I’m playing, I’m just getting on with it and let’s play, let’s see, you never know what’s going to happen but by then, you know, the team was always, not split but there wasn’t enough quality to take the team on, on a regular and compete at the highest level, we just weren’t operating on that level.  If you’re not operating on that level, you’re never going to get to that level.  If you don’t have proper ambition, you know it’s always you’ve got to speculate to accumulate when you buy players and you retain players and you retain proper managers and the management system, you know, yes, it’s not always going to work but you’ve got to, you’ve got to give yourself the best chance to kind of you know win, win, regularly be at the top, hopefully try to win the league, you know that wasn’t the case, it was, it was, it was almost slapdash from the food, okay, you know, it wasn’t the best kind of food, it was more burgers and mash and sausages and, and maybe that was the case, that was football but I knew well, I’m not doing this, I used to go to an Italian and kind of you know feed myself properly with pastas but you’ve got 80% of the team doing that so, you’ve got the food all over the place, you’ve got the system all over the place, you’ve got the hierarchy not spending proper money and retaining players and then when doing, when you do get, you happen to come across a really a couple of good players, they’re there for one or two years or they’re probably on the back end of their career, you know Jurgen Klinsmann came, it was amazing but he’s like, he’s like back end but he still had quality and Popescu was there as well, so there’s a, these are players coming in but there wasn’t enough, you can’t do it on your own, it’s impossible, any business, if you haven’t got enough you know quality around you, you can’t do it.  You can try, you can kind of tussle, you can, you can maybe but then after a while you fade out because there’s just too much everyone, you, you, you kind of, you’re carrying too many people who kind of yeah, yeah, I might be looking good, I’m doing two people’s jobs and yeah we might get occasional great wins, get Man United and you know, it’s amazing but long-term, longevity, proper kind of consistent play and like when you go out there, you’re thinking we’re going to win this game or we’ve got the, we’ve got the, we’ve got the team mentality and we’ve got fire power and we’ve got solid players playing really well, we’ve got the bench looking good as well, yeah, we’ve got a chance.  I was never in that situation, ever, ever, ever at Tottenham. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Probably is a good time to move onto, to Arsenal then and the the topic of Arsenal so, obviously your, your transfer to Arsenal was probably one of THE most controversial transfers in Premier League history. 

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Really?

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

What do you think?  And yeah I’d just be keen to kind of learn a bit more about you know how it came about, you know whether you anticipated the kind of reaction, whether it took you by surprise and really how you coped with, with that immense scrutiny and pressure. 

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

I think you know the deal came around about, I was, you know I was running out, the contract was running out and I was about 25 and then the Bosman Ruling came in about three or four years before that so, it opened up the market.  I wasn’t expecting to go all the way kind of as a Bosman but it just happened that way.  I think for me you know I gave, I gave Tottenham a kind of not ultimatum, I gave them you know one you know I gave them a four year deal and a one year break clause but this is what you know teams were playing that were prepared to pay me around the world, well around Europe anyway and in England and they didn’t want to match it so, I said well, what you’re listing me here, these four things, I have to complete these four things to get the same money someone wants to pay me just off the back so, it doesn’t make sense, you know why do I have to stay and I know I can’t do all these things because we haven’t got the team to do it, so it’s almost counterproductive the actual deal here, what am I signing?  It’s not worth me signing, get hooked in for another four years and I will, I still haven’t got, I’ve not won anything, I’m just treading water all the time, the same situation just keeps on going, you might have a few good wins but consistency, I didn’t want that so, obviously that deal broke down and I, you know I looked at a couple of other clubs, I went to Inter Milan, I checked them out, went to San Siro and there was, you know, their training ground was in Como and that’s, I don’t know if anyone’s been to Como, that’s a really nice place in Italy and he’s got this training there, you know, so it’s incredible, so it’s like a Roman garden with football pitches in between.  Rinaldo was there but then he left but yeah it wasn’t complete and then obviously Arsenal came in, late in, you know, we had some conversations and I, you know, I had the season was drawing to an end and we had conversations and you know everyone you know heard I was walking around the garden, was talking, you know, so I had to keep it low key and the main thing for me is I looked at the players at Arsenal, I said I looked at the players at Arsenal at that time and I looked at Tottenham and I looked at Man United, I looked at Liverpool, Liverpool didn’t actually come down, the manager there didn’t come down to see me but anyway, that’s not a big, but…

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Missed out.

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Yeah, if he can’t be bothered to come down well, well forget it.  So I looked at this and I said well Arsenal’s got the best team, you know, they’ve got the best team and they need someone in that position, I can come in, slot in, yeah it’s going to be tough but you know makes a difference.  It’s all about making that impact as well and you know I knew some of the players already, you know, sometimes going out and meeting them and saying hello and I’m really open-minded when it comes to kind of, you know, I wasn’t you know stiff kind of English, I’m more open, you know there’s lots happening in the world and you’ve got to talk to all sorts of people so, that was quite, I loved their open-minded kind of way of thinking and obviously Arsenal was a great manager, he showed his, you know, his salt and you know, you know changing the whole team and the philosophy and the football and everything, it was a, it was you know it’s hard to kind of turn it down, which I did, in the end I didn’t turn it down but it was more of a family and they understood quality, they understood you know the ups and downs of life, you know you had you know Tony Adams with all his problems and how they helped him to kind of stabilise him and still went on to you know Euro ’96 and things like that, playing amazing football.  So that club, you know, and then the flick side I saw how Tottenham treated Gary Mabbutt and how he had a testimonial and then he had to pay for everything and I said to myself half the stand was getting, still getting built so he lost out of that and how he was complaining how they weren’t helping him so, you look, as a younger player you look at how clubs treat really great players, you know, I’m a, as I said, go back to when I was obviously young, I’m observing, I’m really observing what’s happening and how they treated Tony Adams and how Tottenham treated Gary Mabbutt, you know, it’s chalk and cheese so for me, that club kind of obviously, I wanted more of a family and I want, also I wanted a team operating on a proper level. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Yeah.  So that first North London derby, November 2001.

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Can’t remember it. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Speaking of kind of forgetting things, am I right in thinking that when you arrived, you actually went into the Spurs changing room out of, out of habit.  Is that true or is that?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

I can’t remember.  I might of. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

But what in all, in all seriousness though, I mean that must have been, must have been tough for you.  How did you, how did you feel at the time?  How did you kind of overcome such a kind of difficult, hostile environment and make it through the other side of that afternoon?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

I mean, before that it was, the pressure was just like an inferno, it was just so hot around me, you know, the pressure was so hot, it was, it was like, at one stage I was thinking, I mean just get me out, at one stage I was thinking like I’ve got to leave, it’s just, it’s just too much, it was just pressure everywhere, everywhere I went, it was just like every touch, every movement, every mistake, every goal was hidden, you know, all that, it was, it was just like every single thing from news agents to people talking and fans, it was, it was full on, I don’t think you know, not many people were around London but it was, it was touch for me and I just wanted to play football and I was injured in the beginning, I had to you know get fit so, come this game, you know just, as a 25 year old, coming to 26, I’m thinking well, I’m young, I’m you know this is it, I get this is going to be you know a kind of problem and but you’re young, you’re not, I’m not 30, 31, maybe I’d have thought a little bit different but I’m 26, I’m like, I’m 25-26, I’m no I want to go, I’m robust, I mean who cares about this and obviously when I got there, we got stones, we got bricks all you know chucking at and bottles and you’ve got an effigy of me being like, you know, hung there, I was thinking that, wow, what is going on, it was, it was like strange in a biblical kind of writings that was contradicting itselves, the writing-wise.  So you had a lot of, you had religion, you had, you had, you had real horrible kind of you know singing and effigies and negativity at the highest level and I have to concentrate and play a football game.

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

And your brother was sat with the Spurs fans. 

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Yeah, well, he’s a Tottenham fan, yeah. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Yeah.

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Yeah, yeah, so.  That was, that was mad because he could have been anywhere in the crowd but I saw him so that was, that was, that was mad.

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

He wasn’t shouting was he or?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

No but it was like, he was behind the goal and I, I, you know, there’s like, what was the stadium, 30, 38,000 back in those days?  So, you know, to see someone even that behind the goal, it was mad but I dunno, I saw him in there, he was in the middle of the crowd and then you’ve got, obviously in the game you’ve got people literally saying anything under the sun about me, it was absolutely disgusting.  Bottles thrown at me, the whole kind of you know, chanting.  Obviously, the Arsenal fans were great, you know, backing me because it was, it was a cauldron, I think, I don’t think if anyone was at the game, I don’t know, it was, it was electrifying but also it was, it was really, really nasty, proper dark, it was really dark. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Do you think that would happen today if?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

At that level, it cannot happen at that level.  I mean, well maybe but the whole crowd?  Maybe some of them not doing it, it was, it was really, it was sometimes it was nasty and horrible and it wasn’t, it wasn’t pleasant.  Another person is not playing in that kind of environment, the other players are not playing in it.  That could never happen in that entirety ever again but it did happen and it was allowed to happen and it was allowed to happen and happen and happen all the time every time I played there or you know, the songs and things like that, you know, singing that you want to, I’m happy if I’m dead or this and that, it was, it was homophobic, it was racist, it was bottles, I was physically abused, bottles thrown at me, you know, all that kind of stuff and still have to keep my concentration and play a football game. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

And play a game of football, yeah.  I mean, well, hopefully on to slightly kind of happier times, you know, the move ends, goes very well, you win the double in the first year, go on to be part of that famous invincible side in 2004.  I guess for us in the room that are kind of constantly try to achieve you know kind of high performance levels consistently, you know, how were you able to do that?  How was Arsen, how was the team able to kind of consistently meet those high standards year after year?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

I mean, obviously, it’s the quality players as well, it was very, Trevor, not all the, all these picks made it but majority of them did but he had a system in place, if you have systems in place and you get the right people to fit in the system then you start flying, do you know what I mean, then you start to become efficient, you’re not wasting, you’re not lagging, you’re not kind of oh come on, catch up, you know everyone’s running on the same level and then obviously you’re going to get some superstars who does like you know, they’re going ahead and then that’s inspiring because everyone will go, you know, you’ve got to have that mentality of like, hey we’re in this, it’s operating a proper level, there’s kind of talent everywhere, everyone’s working their socks off as well, there’s no point having talent and no one’s working, it doesn’t work.  You’ve got to have the both, you’ve got to be talented and you’ve got to work your socks off and if you have that, in the end you get the consistency, you’re not having, you never realise you’re operating at that level because it’s just habit, you know, so god you’re moving fast or you’re working like it’s just amazing but oh, you just think it’s normal because you’re in that environment and it, everyone’s feeding off each other in a positive way.  Yeah, you’re going to have some arguments, yeah, you’re going to have some fights, you know that’s normal in a, in a high, highly strung environment but everyone was good, everyone had, everyone was positive, you have your argument then tomorrow it’s gone, it’s forgotten, it’s not lagging and drawing into the next week or whatever, you know because you had to be, everyone had to be 100% and on it.  So that’s, that’s the environment we created.  You create that calmness as well and, and they had experience, they had experience prior to, who’ve had tough times, you know Tony, Martin Keown, all these guys were still there and you know because of Arsene, how he had the system and how he, the mentality and he cleaned up the whole drinking culture and things like that.  You know he, he extended a lot of the players, you know, three or four years careers for sure and that’s why they love, and then experience, they got cleaned up and I was part of that.  Tony was there for one season, I mean he played ten times and won a double, I mean that’s the easiest season he'd ever had really and he went off…

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

You next year, absolutely. 

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

I played with more Tony than England, let alone Arsenal but you know that’s the environment you know he created and I, you know it was just an amazing kind of time.

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

So how did, I mean it was obviously mainly highs, there were a couple of lows in there so, missing out on the FA Cup Final in 2005, missing the Champions League Final the following year, you score a goal and then end up on the losing side.  How did you kind of deal with the low, the low points?  Albeit they happen that often then. 

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

That happened, that’s when you know you’re you know I remember I did a tackle and then I was going up the line and Solskjaer was coming up to me and I kind of pushed my arm out, it wasn’t elbow and he went down like a you know a sack of potatoes and that was it, like the referee said oh, I’ve elbowed him.  I said I’ve just touched him there, I’ve gone like that and because of my height, he’s probably bent down and I’ve gone like that, I’ve not gone right get off me, I’ve gone like that.  Now, you would slow it down and say hey, he’s just clipped him with his palm, he’s not gone like that, he’s just clipped him.  I got sent off and that was one of the most expensive sendings off ever for me.

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Was that the game?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Yeah because back, because one, we lost, we lost the league that year and two, back in those days, the FA and the Premier League used to join your, your suspensions so I missed out, now they’re separate so you know you get sent off for Premier League, you won’t miss the FA Cup.  Back then I missed the FA Cup Final, played all the games to semi-finals, Mike Keown takes my place and goes off working you know with the FA 1-0 against Southampton but I missed the final and then I missed the last four games, three games for England, for Arsenal and I think the last game that changed it, we had to get a win, was against Leeds and Viduka, he scores and that was it, it’s finished.  So, you know, Man United won the, won the Premiership so, for me that was expensive. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Yeah. 

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Sending off and that’s the harsh reality, you know, you’ve got to be, you know, you’ve got to be mindful, you have to be mindful of that, you know, you do something wrong, you can hurt the team you know in a, in an indirect way, you know, that’s like businesses, you know if someone has an office party and it goes really wrong, you know, it can reverberate and you know up to the top and it’s a, you know it’s a problem.  So for me getting sent off and missing those games, personally, I miss those games, personally I was sat on the side and also I was, I was you know pretty pissed off that I couldn’t help my team push Man United to the end, I wanted to push Man United right to the end so, you’re not going to, you’re not just going to roll, we’re not going to roll over, you’re going to have to beat us and you have to keep on waiting for the next Saturday, next Saturday, next Saturday, we’re going to go all the way and I couldn’t do that and that’s what, that’s really frustrating for me as well AND missing the FA Cup Final. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Yeah.  I mean the other kind of highlight in going back to the book as well is the some of the kind of mental health challenges that you faced particularly, I’m thinking the game against West Ham in 2006 when at half time you’re substituted and you know end up spending a bit of time away from the club.  Are you happy to talk a bit about that?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Yeah, I’m happy, I think that…

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

I guess just in particular on the outside people wouldn’t have necessarily known that there was an issue and I suspect it’s probably the same you know in the room here where we have colleagues that on the outside may appear to seem okay but actually inside they’re struggling. 

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

I was struggling because it was, it was, it wasn’t, it actually wasn’t that game, it was actually before and I think really what’s happened, you have to go back and find out what, why, the reasons why and then you’ve got me you know being at Arsenal, being chipped at every week through papers, through football, through fans and in the end it, I think it just really took its toll and then slightly, then got injured and trying to play through injury, keep your, maintain your quality, maintain your presence in the team and that was fading, getting slightly older as well, it was a lot of stuff.  The build up, it’s all about the build up, it’s not when it, when it happens, it’s what’s happened before, you know, you’ve got to add all those things, the pressure, the, the, the continued pressure, unnecessary pressure that was heaped on me as a footballer, as you know the Tottenham-Arsenal stuff, whole, there’s a whole lot of stuff that was kind of being mixed in there and then everyone’s got their threshold, everyone’s got their threshold and my threshold was high but in the end it was, it kind of was breached and you know when I look back at that game, I say okay, I didn’t have the best game but I said to myself, you know, when I look back I said well, you know what I just needed a break, I needed to just stop, it was so much, the pressure was so much and almost it was like a, an earthquake, it was like a you know a huge bomb going off like it just went ‘phew’ and I, you know, sometimes I look back and I say to myself, you know, my mum knew where I was and David Dein knew and a few people but people knew where I went, I went to Brussels, I went to Belgium and I saw one of my friends over there and I spent like two-three days you know, David Dein came over and had lunch, well had dinner sorry, and but I looking back now, I’m not saying I’m embarrassed by it because it was, it was like a breakdown, it was breakdown and like it was just too much, it was high level, highly strung for such a long time with the added pressure and I just needed a break so, I got my break obviously but it was kind of a public break.

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

But it sounded like David Dein was very supportive but Arsene less so, would that be fair?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Arsene, you know, he was, I think with Arsene he, he’s very matter of fact kind of guy, professor and things like that.  I mean that side he finds it hard to kind of communicate, I think David Dein finds that a little bit easier, I think that’s why they you know made a good partnership going forward as a you know as a football team manager and the director, he was very, he was helping, he was filling the gaps that Arsene wasn’t good at so I think that’s, that’s a good team.  I think he wasn’t like that and I think also Arsene didn’t understand what I was going through.  Now, I think a lot of people would understand what players, I mean players, some players, you know, god knows like if they had my situation, I don’t know if they’d be you know be around, I dunno, I think they’d just give up football.  You know I had a, you know, players now and people now are more aware of it and they’re happy to help because it doesn’t, it can hit you anytime and my situation was just like you know I just saw all my what I fought for and I worked for was just fading away through injury, through lack of form, through continuing kind of you know being baited and things like that in the papers and all that kind of stuff, you know, all those kind of things are fed into me so, it chips away at your confidence, it chips away at your soul, your spirit and things like that, it chips away at everything about you and then almost like you have, you almost have this game and this game is almost out of your, you know you’re not a 21 year old, it almost kind of fading out and you see something going in the distance like my career is going, like shit, what am I doing now, like what’s happening now, who am I?  You know, without football, am I somebody or nobody?  So, all those things were going on and then obviously explodes and in a way, I think I needed it to explode, I think sometimes you need it to kind of you know you just have to kind of start again and that’s what I did, I started again. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

So, on that, so at the end of the season you then do start again, you leave Arsenal, you move to…

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Well before that, I got back into the Arsenal team, scored in the Champions League Final, you know, just don’t forget them, that’s, that’s in the same year, so I’ve, that’s the same year and you know getting back and ten minutes from winning from the Champions League, we missed too many chances but I won’t go into that, anyway but you know that’s an incredible thing to kind of get back in and also before, before that I actually you know I wrote a letter, Arsene said oh you have to write a letter to apologise or whatever so I wrote a personal letter and I read it out in front of all the players, so all the players will remember that, you know, the letter I kind of read out to everybody and it was young players, old players, things like that and I think for me, it was almost like I was saying to myself well, this has happened and I don’t know, not that I felt embarrassed by it because it happened and like you know I can reflect back and look at it and say look, it’s a part of life, it was almost like, almost like I’d just got, not scared, I’m always kind of, I don’t know, I almost panicked and then when I look back it’s like what was you panicked for, you just needed a, you just needed a I don’t know a holiday in the Caribbean somewhere and just come back and that’s what you know…

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

And an arm round you. 

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Yeah, arm round you and things like that but also, I just needed a break from football.  Sometimes you just need a break, it’s like you need to kind of you know for you know and you see a lot of players doing it now, a lot of players do it now, some players just you know half time going off, you can see that and whatever, you know players you know missing training, happens all the time now, you know back then it was a little bit different, it was like wow what’s going on there, now it’s, I’m not saying it’s common but it does happen now a lot more.  I just needed a break and then come back, Champions League, nearly won, nearly beat Barca, you know, and then I had to, in the end I left.  I tried to go abroad but it just couldn’t happen, the deal. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Let’s talk about the Portsmouth deal because again, another example of you being a bit of a trailblazer, you end up moving to Portsmouth without the use of an agent, you have a lawyer that helps you with the, with the deal.  Do you think players need agents? Do you think, you know, more players should do what you did and kind of negotiate the deals themselves, you know, famously De Bruyne has kind of taken a similar kind of step, are there other kind of players out there?  What’s your opinion on that?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

I think obviously I saw agents back in the days and they, you know, some of them were just you know almost nicking money out of some of the players, you know, around them and doing double deals and doing one deal in and one deal out and like getting you know profiting from both sides of the deal so, you know, that’s a conflict of interest when you look at it so, I feel, I think some players need agents, I think if you’ve got a really good agency, I think, and they charge fairly and they give back you know, they look after your finances, they look after your, you know, your sponsorships and things like that, they look after you when you’re looking for a deal, look after you if you need a move and things like that, they protect you, they, they kind of protect your wealth and not just for now but afterwards.  If they do all that, I think they’re worth it, you know, but then others, they’re not, they’re not doing that so, and that’s where some players really lose out and they’re charging far too much money for not a lot of work or just being a middle man really so, I think if you get the agency that do, they do all those things, Ronseal does everything on the tin, I think it’s good to be in that environment because they can help you because you can’t do it yourself.  Yeah, some players might have the brother or the mum or whatever, I get that but if they don’t reach out to get professionals in, you know, is the mum, is the brother, you know, know a lot about you know deals and contracts and things like that, you know, I don’t know, or structuring deals or structuring where you move on from there, you know sponsorship deals, knowing what’s everyone’s being paid, all that kind of stuff, they will have that, agencies will have that because they’ve done like five, six, seven, ten, fifteen deals and they know roughly what’s the going rate.  If you’re not, if you haven’t got the information, how do you know what’s the going rate?  Things like that.  It can work but I can see a lot of players just, just know their worth and they just have a lawyer, they do, you know I actually did the negotiation and I just had the lawyer to kind of write it up.

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Yeah, no, makes sense.  Conscious of time.  I will, I promise we will open up to the floor in just a sec, I’m just going to talk about very quickly obviously, Portsmouth where you go on to win the FA Cup, you then have to have a negative experience with Notts County but ultimately, you then return to Arsenal, training with the team and ultimately being signed again by the team.  It would just be good to kind of understand you know how you found that kind of reintegration process because we obviously have a lot of people that go on rental leave for example or take a sabbatical and then come back into a team that may have evolved, are there any particular tips that you would, you would give when it comes to kind of coming back into a team, having you know previously been there and then trying to reintegrate?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

I think with that, obviously with Arsene, you have to, Arsene had a mentality, he had this kind of way of thinking, once you leave a top club, you’re done, you know, you can pop in and out but you’re not coming back in because you’re not, you’re not, you’re done, you’re not at the proper level, you want to, you know, be this level, you’re not going to get the high level or consistency.  So I had to break that and obviously I had to train a little bit and get myself up to speed but then the guys helped me out because I was in limbo leaving Notts County, what a Ponzi scheme anyway, so I had to leave that and you can’t, you can’t join another club, I was in limbo so I had to kind of wait until January so I had two, three months of training.  So as I was training, Tony Colbert was doing the training he was the main kind of strength and conditioning guy there and I started training and then I started playing, training with the youngsters and things like that, so as time went on, the youngsters were training and I was, you know, one week, two weeks, three weeks, by about the third or fourth week I was keeping up with them and like, I was going past them and the numbers started to kind of like, hey, he’s got good numbers, his sprints, his timing, his stamina, his, his, his kind of awareness, his touch, his like you know, you know recovery so things like that, it’s up to speed, hey Arsene, you’ve got to look at him.  He took another month to look at me, six weeks to look at me, took six weeks, even I was say even two months to look at me again. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Know you were there kind of…

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

I was in the house, I was training, he would talk to me blah, blah, blah but in his head he says once you leave, you’re gone, you’re not, you’re not, you cannot, in his head he’s never had a player to come, go, at a high level and them come back high level. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

So re after then.

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

I started everything. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Yeah.

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

You know I changed the mentality, you know, I did so it’s great, it’s great, it’s nice when you can influence people even Arsene but, but from that he, he, you know, that kind of attitude and work ethic, he didn’t see that with some of the young players because almost, at one stage there were obviously the financial side that Arsenal were really struggling so they were kind of getting rid of the high players, they players on the high level of money, wage-wise and then in the end it just left a lot of youngsters and they didn’t really know what to do, they knew they were skilful and talented but they didn’t know the kind of the rigors and how to kind of grind out a game and like see if you can win something and I actually kind of brought that back into him and he realised, you know what, older players can offer something, it’s not like, you know, hey thirty, see you later, we don’t want to know, he kind of, I changed that mentality in his head because you know, obviously he’s the, he’s the one who is going to make the last decision to say right, we’re signing so, and he should you know obviously control the whole club, so I kind of changed that mentality and just getting back in, also I wanted to play at the Emirates, that’s all good, you know, it was nice to play on there. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Emirates or Highbury?  Very quickly, which would you prefer?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

I think obviously Highbury has got a fantastic intimacy but I think if we’re, if I was playing back in my time with all the lads on Emirates, I think we’d have beaten a lot more times because it’s a bigger pitch, we had a tiny pitch and people, players used to, teams used to just like you know sometimes six, seven across, you know across the, face the pitch and stopping people.  If you’ve got a bigger pitch like it is now, you can do that and there’s still another 5 metres around you so you have to spread out, I would have scored a lot more goals, for sure.  But I, you know, it was great. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Conscious of time.  We’ve got a few minutes left, shall we take a couple of questions in one go and then see how we’re doing for time.  Has anybody?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Don’t be shy.

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Don’t be shy everyone.  Here we go. 

Audience member

55.02

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

No.  I was at a tennis tournament with my little one. 

Audience member

Hiya.  Big Arsenal fan here.  Just wondering who the best player you’ve played with is and the strongest opponent as well?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

I would say, I mean the two best players I’ve probably played with on consistency was probably Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry, I think them two, you know, watching them play, incredible, and Dennis was getting older but he still had maintained that great strength and pace and he had fantastic kind of vision and the Henry was just, just a magician and but, you know, eye for goal, he was just a great sort of forward that you can rely on and you knew that you always had a chance with him up front so, probably those two really. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Down here.

Audience member

Thanks Sol.  You’ve obviously spoke a lot about your mental health issues.  I’m just wondering, with Henry, he’s recently kind of spoken out about some of the challenges he’s been facing.  Did you know that at the time, is that sort of the thing that other players were aware of and how did you support someone in that position?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Do you know what, I didn’t know that was going on with Henry.  He told me about last year that was going on, he was, obviously he was seeing some people to kind of help him along but he didn’t actually talk about it.  It wasn’t talked about.  We, you know, back end of my career, sports psychologists were just coming in and then you got, you’ve got two sides, you’ve got if they come in and the first lot who came in were very, some of them were very mouthy and they will kind of use your, ‘I’m working with Arsenal’ to get another team and things like that, it was very open but then the other side of the coin, if you spoke about it too much, the papers would actually say, “Well what’s wrong with him?  What’s going on?” like you know, I think it’s still a little bit now as well, you’re seeing someone.  And then to kind of help him, was he mentally there, is he off, you know all things, you know papers love to kind of ramp it up and then they’re off on another, on a different universe when they talk about it and at the same time they’re hurting you.  And then you look at, you know you look at say you know from the ‘70s and ‘80s, you look at say basketball, you look at golf, you look at tennis, you look at all these American sports and they’ve got psychologists there from the ‘80s, not because they’ve got a problem, they just want to get better, you know, and, and with the psychologists over here you had to do it in a group because if you did it singular, oh what’s wrong with him, if you did it as a group, oh it’s okay, it’s a team thing, it’s weird and like sometimes you know you, thankfully I think it’s changed.  Internally, it’s normal to have a sports psychologist in a football team now, if you can afford it but no, when I was around I didn’t know that was happening, I only learnt that about a year ago, eighteen months ago with Thierry. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

We’ve got time for one more.  Bit nervous, there’s a Spurs fan at the back so, I don’t know what he’s going to say. 

Audience member

Hi there, I’m a Spurs fan but I’m not going to ask you about that.  What would you say, if you can, is your favourite ever game or perhaps your best performance?  Does one stand out?

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Erm, I think Barc, the all-round game but obviously didn’t win was, probably the final Champions League Final because A, I was you know just come back from like the West Ham scenario, I had to wait for at least six weeks to get my chance to get into the team, Ashely Cole was there as well, so you had Gael Clichy and Philippe Senderos, they were in front of me.  Now, you know, it’s like, you think you know it, I had to wait, I had to wait and I…

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

It’s probably not the time to say this, Senderos is my wife’s favourite player. 

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Oh yeah.  Really?  Are you Swiss?  Buy anyway.

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Second favourite player now. 

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

I, you know, when I look, when I look at, I think for me that was, you know, that was probably, to get through that scenario and then get into the team, play a couple of, and then play Barcelona, one of the best Barcelona teams and to play you know extremely well, score a goal and ten minutes from, from winning, that was probably the, I know we didn’t finish with a win but it’s probably one of my best performances considering all the things I had to deal with. 

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

I’ve got one more comment and then we’re going to wrap it up.  So it’s a comment from somebody who’s joined online and they say, “I’m a Spurs…”

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Where from, where from though?

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

Don’t say.

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Really?  Are they Switzerland or up North or?

Simon Leaf, Partner
Technology and Sport, Mishcon de Reya

I don’t know.  But this comment, it could be a member of the Campbell family, they say, “I’m a Spurs supporter and apologise for the abuse that you got when you joined the Arsenal.  You’ve given years of wonderful service to Spurs and you were fully entitled to try to win competitions that you would not have done if you had stayed at Spurs.  Well done you.”  I think that’s probably a fitting way to end the session so, can everyone put their hands together for Sol Campbell.

Sol Campbell
Former Premier League and England International Footballer

Thank you. 

 

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