Revitalised Campbell determined to make Arsenal stint count
When Sol Campbell was substituted against West Ham on Tuesday night, the contrast with his reaction to the same situation almost four years ago could not have been greater.
In February 2006, Campbell was a troubled man and after Arsene Wenger replaced him during the 3-2 home defeat by West Ham, he left the stadium immediately, went AWOL for several days and was out of the team for 10 weeks, before finally departing to Portsmouth.
On Tuesday night, however, his demeanour could not have been more different. After playing 45 minutes for Arsenal's reserves at Upton Park to prove his match fitness and earn a new contract, the 35-year-old was laughing and joking like a teenager, and says he feels "revitalised" since he began training with his former club three months ago.
He says that almost three months of intensive work at the training ground have made him feel fitter than for years while his time out of football has given him a renewed appetite for the game.
Campbell is expected to sign a contract initially to see him through to the summer, but he intends to go on much longer.
"If they keep me training like this I can go on for two or three years," he said. "I've really applied myself, but it's all about determination. Being out of the game helped me and revitalised me. I feel fresh and raring to go, I have a hunger, a craving for the ball."
Arsenal have five games in a two-week period starting at Bolton on Sunday, with an FA Cup tie at Stoke the following week, games made for the solid central defender, who appears to have lost none of his towering presence.
But Campbell's value will also be in the dressing-room, where he can help instil a winning mentality in Arsenal's young players. The club have won nothing since their 2005 FA Cup final victory, one of three FA Cups and two Premier League titles Campbell won with them.
He added: "The likes of me and William (Gallas) have seen it all before. There are fantastic young players here. It's all very well being a great player, but when the games come thick and fast and you have to get a win, or a draw, and it's the fifth game and everyone is tired, it's about dragging the lads over the line and getting a result because those points all add up at the end of the season."
He admits regret at leaving Arsenal when he did. "When you go away you realise what a top club Arsenal are. Sometimes you move and rethink things, and here I am. I missed it, and I think it has been the same for both sides." (© Daily Telegraph, London)