Now for a Sol revival! Wenger backs Campbell to lead Arsenal in title bid

13 January 2010 12:11
Another day and another once great Arsenal player dares to try to demonstrate that he is invincible.

On Monday, Patrick Vieira was unveiled to an unimpressed Manchester City crowd, and at Upton Park last night came the return of the player who marshalled the defence in that same record-breaking Arsenal team of 2004.

But Sol Campbell's comeback is even more remarkable because this is not someone who left north London to play for Juventus and Inter Milan. This is someone who joined Portsmouth when Arsene Wenger decided it was time for the England centre back to move on, and Notts County when Portsmouth chose to say farewell last summer.

Gunner return: Sol Campbell back in an Arsenal shirt for the first time since May 2006

Clearly, however, the 35-year-old was not ready for the lesser beings of League Two. The money might have been great - a ludicrously lucrative five-year contract, no less - but the football most certainly wasn't.

One appearance in a 2-1 defeat by Morecambe in September and Campbell was gone quicker than, well, the same Sol Campbell who walked out of a match against West Ham at half-time.

Wrong move: Sol Campbell played just one game for League Two side Notts County

There was some acrimony to begin with at Meadow Lane, not least over a gagging order to which Notts County demanded he agree in exchange for his registration, but the situation was resolved by the PFA and Campbell was informed he would be free to go and free to join any club who fancied him.

Being the loyal and utterly charming chap he is, Wenger welcomed Campbell back when he said he needed somewhere to train. But would Arsenal's manager entertain the idea of re-signing the player voted 15th by supporters in their all-time list?

Most certainly not, he declared at the time. So credit to Campbell for responding in the manner that he did. By proving, with his performances in training over the past couple of months, that there is indeed life in the old dog yet. That he was right to leave Notts County in search of something more demanding.

He simply reminded Wenger that 35 is not necessarily too old for a defender. The Frenchman should have known as much after winning that first domestic double in 1998 with Messrs Adams, Keown, Bould, Dixon and Winterburn. But he clearly needed to see it for himself.

By late last week, Wenger was hinting that he was ready to make Campbell the first former player he had re-signed in 14 years at Arsenal.

On your marks.Campbell played 45 minutes against West Ham's second-string

'We have a level of interest for every good player,' he said in response to reports. 'Sol has a fantastic attitude, good fitness. He is not the youngest but he's in very good shape. He can still play in the Premier League. He is important in the dressing room. He's positive with the young players. I think a Premier League club will sign him.'

He will be an asset to an Arsenal side very much in the title race. Not quite the physically imposing presence he once was but an extremely useful addition to a squad in need of decent defensive back-up as well as someone with the experience of winning major trophies.

William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen have been terrific but Campbell is a handy understudy to have around. And unlike Vieira, he is not coming back at huge expense.

Back in England: Man City's new signing Patrick Vieira

Arsenal were not prepared to disclose the details of the six-month deal last night but it is thought to be a fraction of the money being paid to Vieira by those money-mad men at Manchester City.

Unbeatable: Sol Campbell lifts the Premier League title in 2004

Somewhere in the region of �20,000 a week, based on appearances.Campbell is a complex character, intensely professional but someone whohas at times appeared vulnerable, not least when his sudden andunexpected departure from that match against West Ham was followed by athree-day disappearing act and a 10-week absence from the team.

At the time Robert Pires cited 'a big worry' in Campbell's private life. Even then, though, he showed a steely determination to bounce back. In what would prove to be his last season at Arsenal before leaving for Portsmouth, he returned for the second leg of the Champions League semi-final and then scored against Barcelona in the final.

Success did not come that night but he left Arsenal having won the FA Cup three times and the Premier League title twice.

That he then played an integral part in Portsmouth's FA Cup glory, captaining the side that had been created by Harry Redknapp, again reminded us of his considerable quality. Not just as a centre half but as a leader.

And now he is back, and back where the pressure will be greatest even if the surroundings seem comfortable to him.

WHAT THE WEBSITE SAID. Sportsmail learned of Sol Campbell's return yesterday afternoon and this was confirmed by Arsenal's club website. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, the information was withdrawn from the site. Hours later it re-appeared and Campbell was a Gooner again - official!  

He could have gone elsewhere. To Hull, where Phil Brown had expressed an interest, and even to Newcastle, where he could have been part of something new and potentially exciting.

There was even talk of Manchester United and Manchester City. But Campbell chose Arsenal, to play under a manager who knows him better than anyone. One who will be quick to identify the first signs of serious weakness.

That he has got as far as he has, in convincing Wenger to give him a new contract, would suggest he can indeed make an impact in yet another title race.

 Sol Campbell back in an Arsenal shirt - the pictures Gunners fans never thought they would seeSol Campbell mystery! Defender on brink of Arsenal return - but club website jumps the gun by announcing his signingAs Sol Campbell prepares to re-sign for Arsenal, Sportsmail's guide to players who shunned the advice: Never go backARSENAL FC

Source: Daily_Mail

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