Sven Goran Eriksson was left to hope last night that the personal audience he arranged with the Football Association's senior officials will prevent Sol Campbell from reacting intemperately to the news that he has been charged with violent conduct.
Eriksson can bear Campbell's absence, with a shoulder injury, from tonight's friendly with Croatia but to lose the Arsenal defender for the forthcoming qualifiers for the European Championship would be a grievous blow.
Campbell appears to have developed a persecution complex following the FA's decision to review video evidence of his alleged kick at Eric Djemba-Djemba in the Community Shield. This decision, which prompted yesterday's charge, infuriated Campbell who was still simmering at missing last season's FA Cup Final through suspension. That was a consequence of his dismissal for elbowing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Such was Campbell's ire it has been whispered he was re-considering his availability for England. Eriksson thus spoke to him by telephone ahead of naming the squad and, at Campbell's behest, arranged a clear-the-air meeting between himself, Mark Palios, the new chief executive of the Football Association, and David Davies, the FA's executive director.
"We had a long chat with him to try and explain the views from the FA," said the England manager. "It is not easy, they are very complicated rules. He is OK now. It was important to have the meeting, for Sol, the FA and myself."
Eriksson added: "He is a tough player but not a dirty one. I think he has been extremely unlucky lately and he can't be that happy about that. He wanted to have a hearing last season and did not get it. It is understandable he is unhappy."
This is a reference to the aftermath of the Solskjaer incident but Campbell's anger, which is likely to have been fuelled by Arsène Wenger's own persecution complex, is misplaced. While he was not granted a personal hearing his case did go to appeal, the first stage of which is consideration by the video panel (which consists of an ex-referee, ex-player and "resting" manager). They felt he did not have grounds for a hearing.
This was explained to Campbell as was the procedure relating to the Community Shield incident. Then Campbell seemed to kick out, tamely, at Djemba-Djemba after the Manchester United midfielder had followed through on a shot and planted his studs in Campbell's groin. A free-kick was awarded to Arsenal by Steve Bennett, the referee.
Campbell was informed that as Bennett had seen and acted on Djemba-Djemba's foul that incident was, under Fifa regulations, closed. However, the referee said he had not seen Campbell's retaliation. The video panel was therefore asked to view it. Yesterday they recommended Campbell be charged and the FA's compliance unit, which is responsible for discipline, complied.
Campbell has 14 days to respond to the charge and can request a personal hearing. If found guilty he will be banned for three matches. These would probably include the visit to Old Trafford on 21 September and the home match with Newcastle five days later. He is already suspended for Arsenal's visit to Manchester City on 31 August after being dismissed against Everton on Saturday. Neither he, nor Wenger, dispute that decision.
The FA's careful handling of the issue recalls the controversy surrounding Alan Shearer ahead of France'98. The then-captain threatened to walk out on England if he was punished after appearing to kick Neil Lennon, then of Leicester, in the head. After a delay Shearer was charged and found not guilty. The FA will also be aware that Duncan Ferguson retired from international football at 25, angry at the Scottish FA's treatment of him.
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