Sol Campbell has felt the highs and lows that can football provides with his heart on his sleeve, including his move from Tottenham to hated rivals Arsenal, being an Invincible and coming so close to Champions League glory only to fall at the final hurdle in 2006 – despite scoring in the final.
After an emotional crisis, Sol Campbell disappeared in February of that year. There was real concern that the defender wouldn’t be seen again.
West Ham had taken a 2-0 lead thanks to Bobby Zamora and Nigel Reocoker, capitalizing on mistakes made by Campbell.
Thierry Henry, so often Arsenal’s saviour, managed to halve the deficit by half-time but by then it was all too much for the centre-back.
Campbell demanded that he was substituted at Highbury on that day. He then walked out of the ground without speaking to anyone.
It sparked widespread worries at the club that he may never be seen again.
He told talkSPORT this year: “The pressure was immense on me, I was injured. No one was giving me any help.
“There was no check and balances with what people were writing, what they were saying.
“I look back on it with great sadness and say ‘it wasn’t me’. But then I have to think about how I got to that level. I had to sort myself out, and I did, but not everyone can do that.
“Not everyone can do that then a few months later score in a Champions League final. You have to remember I got through that.”
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Arsene Younger said that Campbell was not expected to return to training immediately after the incident.
The defender refused to answer his friends and teammates’ calls and was unsure where he was.
Some were thinking that the worst had struck before he turned up to training on the Monday morning – four days after his disappearance.
Wenger acknowledged that the incident caught him unawares, but that he was open to supporting any measures that Sol Campbell wanted to take.
“You never know what’s going on in the head of everybody,” the ex-Gunners boss said.
“He just had a moment last season when he had problems to sort out and his head was not on the game.
“Sometimes they need these kind of breaks to recover, to refresh and to focus on the game again.”
Campbell’s strength, mental toughness, and strong tackles were all a testament to his character. But, the physical and mental strain of playing constantly – for England and Arsenal – was too much and he was forced to play in just 16 Premier League games the season 2004/05.
And while talk of retirement appeared to snowball, Campbell made it through this sticky period to play for another five years – including another stint at Arsenal in 2010.
“Everyone has got their threshold, I kind of rebooted and got myself together and played the game I loved,” the England legend said.
“That’s what you’ve got to remember. I got back on the pitch and playing quality football and got back into the England side.
“You see one little negative, but after that there’s a lot of positive.”