There was a certain poignancy to Sol Campbell's official unveiling as a Portsmouth player yesterday. The news wires were still warm with the news that John Terry was the England captain and Campbell could have been forgiven for wondering where his career had taken a wrong turn.
Had it progressed as forecast, Campbell would have been preparing to face the press in a swish London hotel today, alongside Steve McClaren, not sitting down with Harry Redknapp at a dilapidated Fratton Park.
Eight years ago, Campbell was appointed the youngest England captain since Bobby Moore, leading England in one of the warm-up matches for France '98. As recently as Euro 2004 he was a central figure in the national side. His last game was the European Cup final. Still only 31, he should, as a central defender, be in his prime. Instead, he is out of Europe and on the international fringe. Most deflating of all is the admission that he is at Portsmouth because, to put it bluntly, no one else wanted him.
When Arsenal agreed to release Campbell after his troubled fifth season at the club, it was on the expectation that he would go abroad. The club's manager, Arsène Wenger, has since hinted at feeling betrayed that Campbell remained in the Premiership.
But Campbell said: "I didn't go back on my word. I always said if it doesn't work out going abroad, I would look at home. What am I going to do? Sit at home and do nothing, twiddle my thumbs. I need to play football. There was interest from abroad, and it would have been fantastic to go there, but those things did not work out. Portsmouth wanted me from the beginning. In the end it was an easy decision to make."
Being the choice of last resort did not seem to worry Redknapp. For the Fratton Park manager, Campbell is the man who gives Portsmouth the credibility to attract other big names.
"It is a statement as to where we want to go," said Redknapp. "This is going to be a great club to be associated with." The ex-Arsenal, and Manchester City striker Nicolas Anelka is still a potential recruit.
"Once you get players who have done it before, it makes it a lot easier to get other players," Campbell said. "At the moment players out there will say 'it's only Portsmouth' but once the whole set-up starts changing it becomes more attractive. The investors [primarily the new owner Alexandre Gaydamak, who watched Campbell's press conference from the sideline] mean business."
And of his own future? "We'll see how it goes. I want to settle down here, play some good football, get that right first. It's a new start. What will be, will be."
The Portsmouth defence could have done with Campbell last night, as Pompey lost 2-1 to Porto in a friendly at Fratton Park.Reuse content