Thursday, 24 September 2009

Campbell's Departure Indicative Of The Times

Sol Campbell's hasty departure from League Two Notts County - five weeks into a lucrative five year contract - is a sad but unsurprising reminder that the modern footballer by and large deserves his reputation as a self-centred mercenary, unable to comprehend the eternal notion that the club is bigger than any player, especially one well past his best and with a history of bottling it.

Wednesday saw the astonishing about-turn fly onto the front pages of the nation's news sources, and the immediate reaction was one of disappointment (from County's perspective), tempered with the rapid realisation that the former England international really wasn't worth the 'hassle' - as Spurs chief Harry Redknapp chose to put it - and especially not the £45,000 weekly salary that he was reported to be receiving from the club's wealthy but mysterious owners. Campbell played a single game for the ambitious County outfit - a 2-1 defeat to Morecambe.

Today on, director of football Sven-Goran Eriksson confirmed that Campbell had decided the club's long-term project was not one he could adapt to, and questioned the centre back's motives, claiming that Campbell had had five weeks in which to familiarise himself with the various facets of the programme. Let us interpret this in the way which is probably intended: Campbell simply couldn't be bothered to wait for County's climb to click into gear, and attempted to mask this with an excuse that attempted - poorly - to call into doubt the foundations of the five-year plan.

Sometimes, of course, impatience can be a virtue (this at any rate was the thinking behind the recent Samsung mobile phone advert); the qualification is that it must be expressed in the right way. That is, we can admire a singleness of focus in a sportsperson if they are able to channel this into dedication and commitment on and off the field. But when it is manifested as the individual's express belief that he is being let down or in some way betrayed by those around him, then it is much more difficult to call up some appreciation for his situation. Moreover, crossing one's management invariably ends badly; we need only recall the decline of David Beckham after his departure from Manchester United, or more recently the pariah status enjoyed by Nigel Reo-Coker after his training ground tussle with Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill.

A player who can use his frustration as a motivation for redoubled efforts on the training ground and increased application in the opportunities that he does get merits encouragement. But Campbell's early ditching of the project at Notts County, apparently because the facilities at Notts County do not rival those at Arsenal or Portsmouth, merely marks him out as a deserving recipient of further terrace ridicule. Sadly, it seems that we will have to wait until January before we can indulge in such behaviour. At least it gives us plenty of time to prepare our best material...

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