Sol Campbell is poised to sign for Arsenal today after coming through a reserve-team fixture against West Ham last night. Campbell will be offered a short-term contract until the end of the season worth an estimated £40,000 per week.
The 35-year-old played for 45 minutes of the 4-2 win for Arsenal in front of under 200 spectators at Upton Park, including manager Arsène Wenger, who watched from an executive box.
Wenger has been a long-time supporter of the former England international and offered him the chance to regain his fitness following his controversial departure from Notts County in September.
Campbell quit Meadow Lane after a single League Two game and made no secret of the fact he missed playing in the Premier League. Many questioned his decision to join County in the first place. He had been playing in the Premier League with Portsmouth just months earlier, yet the generous five-year contract proved too tempting to turn down. His career there spanned just two months and in his one game County lost 2-1 defeat at Morecambe. Campbell seemed uncomfortable in that match at Christie Park on 19 September but he looked solid enough last night.
Physically he could do with some more time in the gym, but he dealt with the threat of West Ham's Freddie Sears and Cristian Montano – although they are hardly Premier League quality. Wearing his familiar No 6 shirt, Campbell was soon barking out orders to his defensive partner, the 18-year-old Kyle Bartley, and the two coped well against West Ham – a side against whom Campbell endured one of his worst moments in an Arsenal shirt. In February 2006, he walked out of Highbury after an error-strewn first half against the Hammers and Arsenal went on to lose 3-2.
Campbell will be behind William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen in the first-team reckoning at the Emirates Stadium, yet will offer Wenger some more options in defence. He said: "I feel great but I think 45 minutes is enough after four months out. I cannot tell you how much I've missed playing after being out so long since leaving Notts County.
"I need to get minutes under my belt, a couple of reserve games at least, before I can start looking any further ahead. I hope to sign for Arsenal until the end of the season. There are still a few technicalities to iron out, but it's fantastic, great, marvellous. The old enthusiasm is back. I've got to tell you it seems as though I have never been away. I'm ecstatic really to be back at Arsenal, and I have worked bloody hard to get there.
"Arsène has been an inspiration. He has watched me closely after letting me train at Arsenal for nearly two months now. He's not stupid – he wouldn't have taken me back if he didn't like what he had seen, and I have worked and worked. I do believe I can contribute. I really have my confidence and fitness back and believe I can make a big, big contribution.
"There is fantastic quality all around the pitch within this Arsenal team and I want to be part of it, and will make a big push to try to do that, but it's little steps at a time."
Campbell's imminent arrival has cast a doubt over Philippe Senderos' future at Arsenal. The 24-year-old has been patiently waiting for his chance to prove to Wenger he is capable of playing at the highest level.
Yet he is now likely to be bumped down the pecking order even further and the Switzerland international has had enough. Senderos, who didn't feature last night, said: "I want to go. I don't want to play in the reserves, I just want to go."