It says all about the insane world Sol Campbell has filled in club management that the goalkeeper he planned to use for Southend United’s away game against Bolton was sold in the time it took the team bus to reach the stadium.
‘I came from the coach and then our keeper was gone’, he says. ‘To Man United! “OK! Can I play him?” “No, he is now a Man United player.” I was lucky to have an extra keeper.’
Things got considerably worse after Nathan Bishop left in January last year. When Southend’s second-choice subsequently injured in Coventry, an 18-year-old had to be called in.
Sol Campbell failed to make it to final stage for vacant England Under 21 manager role
Campbell left the club after eight months last summer. They just fell back into the National League after successive relegations.
Southend and Macclesfield Town – where Campbell reveals players were paid so intermittently that some refused to play for him – is not the sort of management testing ground that one of the most accomplished center halves of English football should have to go through. But that’s often the bleak reality when a player of color decides he wants to coach.
The 46-year-old has applied for 16 management positions since 2011. Only one – Sunderland – interviewed him.
It seemed hopeful when the FA asked him to apply for the England Under 21 job – usually a sign that a potential employer is interested. But he did not make the shortlist and has not yet been told why.
The FA asked him to apply for the England Under 21 job after Aidy Boothroyd’s departure
‘It was an honor’ [for me] to be asked “would you like to apply?”‘ he says of the approach taken by the FA’s recruiters, Nolan Partners.
“I don’t know why they spoke to me. You probably just want to see me and see if I would fit in the mold; fit what they were looking for. They want to hear from the horse’s mouth, as it were. I still haven’t had a good conversation.
‘It just went through the office. It would be nice to have a little chat, almost a debriefing about the interview. I’ve heard there’s an opportunity to have a debriefing when they pick the next manager.”
His deference is striking, although generations of would-be black managers will tell you that’s how they’ve always had to play. Do not rock the boat. Don’t jeopardize your already limited prospects.
While Campbell’s England contemporaries, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, have gotten shots at clubs with resources and profile, he has reached the stage where he would just spend a few months at a club with some sort of budget.
Campbell’s (right) England contemporaries, Steven Gerrard (left) and Frank Lampard (center), have been shot at clubs with resources and profile
‘I see that [other ex-England players have had chances],’ he says. ‘I would like such an opportunity. I wouldn’t mind if someone gives me six months at the end of a season to see what we can do.
‘I won’t say try before you go [for me], but it should be a chance to see what you can do and I’m really good at making sure I get the best out of situations. I don’t need the whole team full of stars, I can work with most budgets, I’ve never had a budget before! Had two clubs, no budget. Judge me on whether I’ve had four or five clubs with decent budgets, good players, judge me on that.’
It’s a point Harry Redknapp, his former Spurs manager, makes in a revealing talkSPORT documentary about Campbell to air on Thursday. Judging Campbell on the opportunities he’s had thus far is impossible, says Redknapp.
Theo Walcott tells the documentary makers that he is surprised that Campbell has only captained England three times. Walcott feels like he never got the recognition his game deserved.
The FA indicated that the under-21 recruitment process had not yet been completed and that was when feedback was provided.
Lampard got the job at Chelsea while Gerrard has had success at Rangers
But the governing body would have been in a better position to judge Campbell’s ability to make the Under 21s more successful than Aidy Boothroyd could have if they had asked him to work as a defensive coach in the senior or age groups.
Giving the former Arsenal and Tottenham defender England’s 73 caps and availability, a phone call doesn’t seem to have been beyond the bounds of possibility. Nobody called.
“I don’t know why,” he says. “I think they probably have enough and are happy with their coaching staff. Even if it’s part-time, you can make a difference. But they are happy with what they have. I would love it. I’m always up for my country.’
He seems a perpetual optimist, convinced that an opportunity will come, and isn’t quite convinced he wants a Rooney rule requiring clubs to interview someone like him. But just over a year after George Floyd’s death and all that has ensued, he is left wondering if football has really moved on.
“Just look at the numbers and you’ll see it hasn’t changed,” he says. “Maybe there are things going on behind the scenes that I don’t know about. But it doesn’t happen visually.’
Being Sol Campbell will be broadcast on talkSPORT on Thursday evenings from 7pm and will be visually available at the same time on the talkSPORT YouTube channel