Campbell move invites unprecedented scorn

Steve Tongue
Wednesday 04 July 2001 00:00 BST

The already bitter rivalry between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal has taken an even more acidic turn following Sol Campbell's decision to move from one to the other. A switch between the two is not unparalleled, but in the case of a club captain and star player, it had hitherto been as unthinkable as, say, Alan Shearer leaving Newcastle United for Sunderland.

Previously, it was managers who have caused divided loyalties in north London, Spurs having appointed two of them closely associated with the enemy, neither of whom ever won the hearts or minds of supporters. Terry Neill, a former Arsenal captain, was the surprise appointment in 1974, after Bill Nicholson resigned and failed to convince the board that Danny Blanchflower – an authentic Tottenham hero – should replace him. Even Nicholson used to refer to Neill as "the Arsenal man", and White Hart Lane fans were relieved when he moved back to his spiritual home at Highbury within two years. More than 20 years later, George Graham had the same problem, which he never overcame.

Pat Jennings was the highest profile player to switch between the clubs, but suffered none of the current animosity towards Campbell. Jennings, as well as being the most likeable of men, was perceived as being either well past his best, or as a victim of that belief on the management's part, when he was allowed to move to Arsenal at the age of 32, after 14 years' service. There were few hard feelings when he prolonged his career by another eight seasons, playing in three successive FA Cup finals and becoming the first player to earn a testimonial for both clubs – a well supported match against the other on each occasion. To round things off nicely, he even returned to Tottenham as cover and then goalkeeping coach.

Others were less fortunate. Nicholson has said that two of the worst signings he ever made were the Arsenal players Laurie Brown and David Jenkins, partly because, he felt, they were never given a chance by supporters. In Jenkins' case, Arsenal took the lively Scottish winger Jimmy Robertson in exchange and, though he lasted only 18 months, they clearly had the better of the deal.

The closest recent case at any Premiership club was Nick Barmby's move across Stanley Park from an Everton side going nowhere to Liverpool, in search of trophies and increased international recognition; he has yet to play in a derby game at Goodison and if and when he does, will feel the wrath of the football supporter scorned.

Until yesterday, Campbell's relationship with Spurs fans had been a complex one. Loved as graduates from the terraces via the youth team are, he still did not quite reach the status of an icon like Glenn Hoddle, or even imported favourites from abroad or the Geordie nation (Ossie Ardiles, Jürgen Klinsmann, Paul Gascoigne, Chris Waddle). The announcement a year ago that Spurs would definitely not be cashing on him before the Bosman ruling applied was generally well received, and at the start of last season, supporters reading the paraphrased newspaper headline "I'm off unless Spurs wake up and start matching big clubs" attracted much sympathy from supporters who felt the same way.

It was the dawning realisation of his intention to leave, as Graham regularly reported the player's refusal to sit down and talk terms, that began to cause divisions. Many felt Graham's replacement by Hoddle in March would signal a new era that the player might be part of; when he limped off during the FA Cup semi-final defeat by, of all people, Arsenal, most of the Spurs contingent cheered him to the echo – others declined, and those are the ones with "told-you-so" expressions today.

Another defining moment came when Tottenham leaked details of his salary demands, which allegedly amounted to some £130,000 a week. Contracts are so complicated these days, with perks, signing-on fees and added bonuses, that it is almost impossible to compute an accurate weekly figure, but to publicise that one just as Spurs fans were receiving demands for the renewal of their season-tickets showed a degree of public relations finesse almost unknown in the world of football.

It had the desired effect, and until yesterday the best argument Campbell's rapidly diminishing fan club could come up with was that in asking for silly money he was merely seeking compensation for Tottenham's inability to provide him with Champions' League football. Then came the press conference to announce his chosen destination.

It has long been the policy at Tottenham for a former player coming back to appear against his old club at White Hart Lane, to be given a special mention over the public address system. The response tends to be touchingly generous, but Campbell should not expect to find the tradition inviolate when he runs out in the red shirt of Arsenal for the first time. Judging by the reaction of Spurs fans once the news of his defection broke yesterday, he has made Judas Iscariot look like a man who made an unlucky career decision.

Sol's rise: The road to Highbury

By Phil Shaw


18 September: Born in Newham, east London.


July: Joins Tottenham as a trainee.


September: Signs as a professional at White Hart Lane.

5 December: Scores on his Spurs debut against Chelsea.


May: Wins first of his 40 England caps in a 3-0 victory over Hungary.


June: Has a goal disallowed against Argentina in the second round of the World Cup. England then go out on penalties.

November: Captains England in a 2-0 win over the Czech Republic at Wembley.


Wins the Worthington Cup after Spurs beat Leicester 1-0. Enhances his reputation as Spurs defeat Manchester Untied 3-1 and Arsenal 2-1.


Spurs promise to break the bank to keep Campbell, the subject of £20m transfer speculation both from Old Trafford and abroad. Represents England at Euro 2000, playing in all three first-round games in the Netherlands and Belgium.


January: Declares that he is happy at Spurs, sparking speculation that he will not leave White Hart Lane when a free agent in the summer.

5 January: Campbell says he is hurt at not being offered a new deal by Spurs, but the outgoing chairman Alan Sugar claims Campbell and his agent refused to talk about a new deal on several occasions.

April: Arsène Wenger admits he is interested in signing the defender, but Campbell hints he will stay at Spurs if they win the FA Cup. Ankle injury suffered during 2-1 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal ends his season prematurely.

16 May: Barcelona reported to have agreed a five-year deal with Campbell.

25 May: Reports claim he has turned down an £80,000-a-week contract to stay with Spurs.

26 May: Spurs announce Campbell has rejected their latest offer to keep him and concede that he will be leaving the club.

27 May: Campbell announces that his decision to leave Tottenham is based "purely on football" and his desire to play in "major European club competitions sooner rather than later".

3 July: Elects to remain in London, after interest from Internazionale. Signs for Arsenal.



Figo vaulted a political and cultural chasm by defecting from Barça to Real for £37m last summer. His signing had been promised to Real's members by Florentino Perez to persuade them to vote him in as president. Portugal's captain, his stock soaring after Euro 2000, struck a six-year deal worth £16.5m, cushioning the blow of bitter hostility from 'betrayed' Catalans.


The blank page in Shackleton's autobiography titled "The average director's knowledge of football" is legendary. However, the next chapter, "How not to run a football club", tells how the clown prince of inside-forwards fell out with Newcastle over their alleged penny-pinching. For a then huge £20,050 he jumped ship to "the grandest club in soccer" – neighbouring Sunderland.


Law had spent a season at City and another with Torino before beginning his medal-strewn affair with United in 1962. Given a free transfer by Tommy Docherty, he returned to Maine Road and, by an incredible irony, back-heeled the late derby winner at Old Trafford which sealed United's relegation in '74. He was promptly substituted, which made the goal the last kick of his career.


"MoJo" officially moved to Ibrox from Nantes, but days earlier he had agreed to rejoin his "beloved" Celtic. Though triumphantly paraded before the press at Parkhead, he never put pen to paper. Rumblings of Rangers' interest were ridiculed by the striker before, to the horror of Protestant traditionalists, Graeme Souness unveiled him as the first latterday Catholic Bluenose.


Movement across Stanley Park has tended to be from Anfield to Goodison and uncontroversial; witness Messrs Morrissey, Ablett, Beardsley, Harper and Sheedy. With a £7m flourish, Gérard Houllier changed all that, leaving Barmby to face "Judas" taunts on derby day and Bill Kenwright to reflect that the worst words an Everton chairman could hear were: "I want to join Liverpool."


Spurs reckoned the Northern Ireland keeper, aged 32 and dogged by ankle trouble, was finished when they let Arsenal buy him for £45,000. Terry Neill, an ex-Gunner whose previous appointment, at White Hart Lane, was about as popular as George Graham's would later be, knew better. Jennings played another 380 games, adding to his honours and appearing in two World Cups.

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