Sol Campbell walked out on Notts County because he did not believe that the promised investment from the club's secretive owners Munto Finance would ever materialise. The extraordinary departure of the former England international has once again put the spotlight on the League Two club's mysterious new owners. In his column in today's Independent, Andy Cole, Campbell's friend and former team-mate at England and Portsmouth, confirms that Campbell was unconvinced by the long-term aims of the club and expected to see more investment before the close of the transfer window.
Campbell came to believe that Munto's money was being channelled into their newly acquired Formula One team BMW Sauber rather than Notts County. Having been told by the director of football, Sven Goran Eriksson, that his ambition to become a coach and a manager could be fulfilled at the club, currently in England's fourth tier, Campbell quickly lost faith in the project.
Cole told The Independent: "I can tell you that he [Sol] left Notts County because of what he perceived as unkept promises. He bought into the whole County project, he really did. He has now left County because he had been led to believe there would be major resources invested at Meadow Lane rapidly and obviously, not just in new players but in facilities and infrastructure. That has not happened."
Claims that Campbell is unfit, or the rather more outlandish rumours that he could not handle the pressure of playing League Two football are understood to be wide of the mark. The England defender, who won 73 caps for his country, was yesterday back at his home in Chelsea, west London.
Cole added: "Sol didn't see what he assumed would be quick, significant changes during his early weeks at the club. That has raised enough doubts in his mind to get out, and quickly."
Campbell, 35, who played only one game for Notts County, a 2-1 defeat to Morecambe on Saturday, was made offers by Aston Villa and Newcastle in the close season. His preference is to sign for one of those in the next transfer window which, under Fifa rules, would be the earliest time he could sign for a new club.
The identity of the club's investors has become a major issue for the Football League, which has not yet approved the takeover by Munto on the basis that the owners have yet to pass the league's "fit and proper persons" test. Campbell was the club's marquee signing but he turned up at training on Tuesday, collected his possessions and told club officials he would not be coming back.
Campbell's five-year deal at Notts County is understood to be worth more in total than the £40,000-a-week that has been reported. His scepticism about the club's future is reflected in his decision to walk away from the deal which he will find impossible to match at much bigger, better established clubs.
Although Campbell has been portrayed as a flaky character at times, he has seen out every professional deal he has ever signed – at Tottenham, Arsenal and Portsmouth – albeit cashing in on his free agent status each time. His agreement to break his contract with Notts County is a first and was reached "by mutual consent".
Munto Finance are owned by the Swiss-based investment company Qadbak. They were gifted their controlling 60 per cent stake by a supporters' trust who previously had control of the club. They appointed Eriksson in a blaze of publicity and signed Campbell in August but since then have been less than supportive of manager Ian McParland.
The Football League are so anxious about the investigation into Munto Finance and the identity of the investors that they refused to comment yesterday on the situation. They are expected to make an announcement after 8 October when they are due to have their next board meeting.
Yesterday, the Notts County chief executive Peter Trembling, a former commercial director at Everton, sought to claim that it was Campbell who had been unnecessarily impatient with the club. Boldly claiming that "if he [Campbell] doesn't want to play here, we don't want him here." Trembling said that fans who had bought replica shirts with Campbell's name on them would be reimbursed.
He added: "We're disappointed Sol has decided he wants to end his contract. It's one of those things, he joined five weeks ago on a five-year contract as part of the long-term project, but ultimately he's come to the point, having been here five weeks, where he has decided it's not for him.
"Sometimes decisions are made, people make wrong decisions and Sol has decided this is not where he wants to be now. We're not going to kick up a fuss about it. If he wants to go, he needs to go and we genuinely wish him all the best."
Debut débâcle: Campbell's first and last County game
David Potts was one of the 3,335 in the crowd at Christie Park to witness Sol Campbell's first and last appearance for Notts County in a 2-1 defeat on Saturday. This is his fan's-eye view:
"It was a tough debut for Campbell as Notts were run ragged in the first half and could have gone in at half-time 4-0 or 5-0 down. It soon became obvious that he was not match fit and it took him a long time to adjust to the pace. He was up against Ian Craney and Paul Mullin, two experienced League Two players, and at times they lost him or ran past him. Mullin kept dropping off Campbell or drifting wide and he could not deal with it. That was certainly the case with the second goal just after half-time, Mullin getting away from Campbell at a corner and heading in at the near post.
Soon after that Campbell caught midfielder Emmanuel Panther with a late tackle that broke his toe and has put him out of action for three months. Campbell should at least have been booked.
Campbell was not indifferent to League Two but was certainly not wildly enthusiastic. The main question was what was a player like that, with what he's achieved in the game, doing in League Two – especially on £40,000 a week? Despite what some people might think, the standard is fairly good and the players are fit and competitive. You can't expect just to turn up, with hardly any pre-season training, and stroll through games."