The Andy Cole column: Sven tried to recruit me too. Now I've spoken to Sol, I'm glad I said no
All Fired Up
Thursday 24 September 2009
I've been close mates with Sol Campbell since we were kids and I can tell you that he left Notts County because of what he perceived as unkept promises. He bought into the whole County project, he really did, and I say that as someone who initially took the piss out of him for going there but who was persuaded by Sol of his heartfelt reasons for the move.
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 and Sol is not sure that it will.
I think there is also a feeling, rightly or wrongly, that some of the money County's new owners were planning to put into football is now going into Formula One instead: the Middle Eastern consortium behind County have bought a Formula One team.
County's executive chairman, Peter Trembling, said in a statement yesterday that Sol "could not adjust to the long-term nature of the project under way at Notts County".
What does that really mean? It means that 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. The truth is that Sol had already gone through a period of dashed hopes and expectations at Portsmouth, and why should he go through that all over again?
Sol will be fine. I know that he spoke to Aston Villa and Newcastle before signing for Notts County. I know he could have earned more money elsewhere. I also believe he's got a good two years at least at a high level left in him. He won't struggle for employment playing football.
A large part of why Sol went to Notts County was Sven Goran Eriksson's involvement. I ran into Sven at the England game against Croatia a couple of weeks ago and he said: "Andy, do you fancy coming to Notts County?" I've known Sven for years, and the smile on his face made it a plausible offer but I can't be sure how serious he was because I cut him off straight away and said, "No thanks".
When I stopped playing 10 months ago, that was it for me. Sven had complimented me earlier, saying, "You're looking in good shape", and I know he was probably surprised that even a year after my last game, I look no different to when I was playing. I'm still going to the gym, I've kept in shape. But that "no" was a genuine "no", whatever the seriousness of Sven's offer. It's time for a new direction in my life.
I can also shed some light on how Sol genuinely believed that going to Notts County was the new direction he was seeking in his own career. When I heard rumours about the move I phoned him and said, "I can't believe it. What on earth are you doing?" He said: "It's true, I've signed for Notts County." I said: "You're pulling my leg. Sol, they're not Premier League, they're not Championship, they are not even League One! What are you doing?" Sol told me that a five-year deal was too good to turn down, not because of the money but because of the other opportunities offered him. Sol, like me, has hopes of a career in and management. The Notts County project, as Sol initially bought into it, was about taking a bottom division club towards the Premier League, and taking him towards a management role with up to five years' hands-on experience as he worked his way up from player to player-coach.
Sol has just turned 35, so I can appreciate how the future might have been panning out in his mind. At 40, he could be close to management at a club in or near the Premier League if things unfolded as envisaged.
That is what attracted him. We can return at a later date to the real and serious issue of a glass ceiling for black managers in England. But the chance to progress from the bottom up, learning his new trade from the inside, attracted Sol. He doesn't want to get to the end of his playing career and be having to ask favours to get some coaching experience.
He hoped County would work out. It didn't. He'll move on.
The fee for Andy Cole's column is donated to Alder Hey hospital and sickle cell anaemia research. He works on charitable projects with the law firm Thomas Eggar
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