Ex-Arsenal star Sol Campbell retires – Blaming lack of “opportunities to fail”

Eleven years after retiring as a player, the ex-Arsenal star Sol Campbell has given up his dream of being a manager.

He will tell you that he’s given up the ghost, an opportunity that never existed. He climbed a ladder only to realise the grasp rings were imaginary. For over a decade he chased an illusion.

He refuses to say he was rejected for jobs because he argues no such chances were available. His CV said he worked in League two and League one for clubs in financial peril.

“For me, it is about getting opportunities to fail,” he told the PA news agency. “Some of my peers have had jobs and it’s not worked out and then they have had opportunities again straight away, they’ve always had a lifeline.

“That is a nice position to be in. I am not in that position, I would love to be, but those situations are not coming to me. I would love to be involved in football and have chances, but that is not happening.

“You have to look at football in a different way and that is what I am going to start doing and hopefully it will work out and I will be able to help players, just in a different way.”

He adds: “We need to understand not everyone is going to make it to be an amazing manager, but you have to get the opportunity or a chance to prove yourself right or even show you can do the job.

He kept Macclesfield in the Football League having joined that November when they were bottom of the table. He didn’t get to finish a season at Southend due to lockdown, although he was 16 points off safety at that point.

In 15 applications, those were the two interviews he was invited for. He cites that’s because of the colour of his skin. He’s become best known for expressing that opinion more than anything else he’s done since hanging up his boots.

To support his argument, he can point to international peers Alan Shearer, Paul Merson, Tony Adams, Teddy Sheringham, Alan Shearer, Gascoigne, Southgate, the Neville brothers, etc all finding employment while he had to travel as far as Trinidad and Tobago for coaching experience.

He watched while former opponents Roy Keane, Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce were given second chances. Recently he’s had to ask how a Lampard got to work twice in the Prem? How was Gerrard’s first ever job at Rangers?

Having won everything domestically, played at World Cups and Euros, scored in Champions League Finals, capped 73 times, why has he not been treated the same as his peers?

Does there being only one black manager in the topflight of English football prove racism exists?

The only colour I see when I watch football is the colour of the shirt being worn.

Vincent Kompany will succeed or fail based on results. No different to Vieira who lasted at Palace until Steve Parish felt relegation was a possibility.

I’m not sure Henry would have managed in this division had he done better at Monaco?

The stats though are unusual based on how many black players have played in the UK. Sol has argued in the past that’s because his race are trusted to be good athletes but dismissed at being unable to strategize.

The numbers tell me the issue is how many black players are actually applying. That number becomes less and less until they see a Kompany or Vieira succeed.

In his most recent statement, Sol was more diplomatic, careful not to accuse owners of racism. Rightfully or wrongly by speaking out he admits chairmen or women may now have a perception of him.

That shows growth, that Sol has looked in the mirror and self-reflected. Possibly taking accountability for being too serious.

Sol once turned down an offer to work with the English under 21’s feeling he didn’t suit the FA system. Yet the reality is some have got their foot in the door by who they know.

Henry, Lampard and Gerrard were all allowed to teach underage groups at Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool respectively. Vieira and Arteta were developed by Man City with clear career progression.

That Sol would turn down working in a system that got Southgate the Three Lions top job is telling.

Anyone who’s read the man’s autobiography will know that as much as being a world class defender, he’s eccentric, a self-confessed loner.
That’s why it’s sad that he’s given up. Because his whole life, for all his deep thinking and at times bizarre behaviour, he is used to succeeding and fulfilling his goals.

If this were a movie this isn’t how Sol would want it to end. His ending would be like that scene in Cool Running where the Jamaican team are applauded as they carry their sleigh to the finish line. Instead of a medal they achieved equality.

Is Sol Campbell a victim of a lack of equality or does he take himself too seriously?

Having studied at Harvard, he still wants to give something back to the Sport, but it just won’t be in the dugout.


Tags Sol Campbell


  1. He has a point that players like Lampard and Gerrard get loads of unearned opportunities but rather than hand the same to him the solution is to not give out those opportunities to anyone who is not qualified.

    1. I don’t think you can realistically say ‘loads’ for both these managers. Gerrard worked a progression and was successful as a youth coach, successful as Rangers manager and earnedthe Villa job. Lampard wasn’t unsuccessful at Derby and Chelsea wasn’t exactly warranted, but he is a legend there, so it makes sense. Both players also moved into youth coaching inside a year of retirement and Campbell was out of the game for about 6 years after retiring. On the surface, it looks like he didn’t put the effort in at the bottom and let his name drift rather than strike whilst the iron was hot.

      1. Good shout Paul.

        Vieira and Kompany are managing in the EPL. A few Hispanic managers too, or dont they count?

        It shoots down his weak attempt to play the race card.

  2. Donkey once complained the world is not level, Sol Campbell was surprisingly omitted from the New year honours list.
    He may have felt hard done by that decision despite him being best defender in the world at one stage of his career.

    It is sad to see the Arsenal legend hang up his boots, without afforded a firm bite at the cherry.

    Three points lane refers to him as Judas, but we see him as an old stalwart, who has served us well.

    1. I do believe he was one of the top handful of defenders in the world at his peak – one thing I will say is that at that time he really didn’t get the recognition he deserved, as most of that went to rio ferdinand (who was also a great defender, of course, but i don’t necessarily think he was better).
      Even when talking about the invincibles, Sol doesn’t get talked about enough – he was our rock, and a key part of the spine of the side. He was easily one of the most important players in that side – close up with Henry and Vieira imo (I considered them to be the big 3 at the time tbh).
      I do wonder if that has played a part in the unfortunate victim mentality he appears to have developed since retiring from playing.

  3. Anyone with an iota of sense should see that Sol has been victimized – not by the colour of his skin, but because of his action when leaving the spuds for The Arsenal.
    To this day, the man has had to put up with questions about his loyalty and why he did the two things that (if I remember correctly) he said he wouldn’t do… not sign a new contract at our noisy neighbours and join us.

    That has followed him, not only through his playing career, but in interview after interview.

    Sol was one of Arsene Wenger’s biggest coups, but the great man has said that, if he knew how Sol was going to suffer from that decision, he would seriously think about signing him up.

    I rate Sol Campbell as highly as Tony Adams with regards to what he did for our club and I’m saddened that he has come to this decision.
    Whatever he has planned for the future and it sounds to me like he has something planned, I can only wish him the very best, just as he gave The Arsenal HIS very best in every way imaginable.

  4. For me Sol was one of the best defenders of his time. I agree with him that he should have been given more opportunities to at least fail if not succeed.
    Very few elite players make it as great managers. SAF and AW were great managers but they were not elite. MA was also not a great player but has the ability to be a great manager in time (at least I hope this is the case.).

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