Wednesday 7 December 2016

Wenger breaks with tradition as Campbell returns to Arsenal fold

Matt Hughes

Published 13/01/2010 | 05:00

SOL CAMPBELL will complete a remarkable return to Arsenal today by signing a contract at the Emirates Stadium until the end of the season.

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The former England defender played as a first-half trialist in last night's reserve-team match against West Ham United at Upton Park, and talks about a permanent contract are already at an advanced stage.

Campbell rejected the opportunity to sign longer deals at Hull City and Newcastle United to return to Arsenal, who will pay him £70,000 a week. The 35-year-old has not played a first-team match since a solitary appearance for Notts County against Morecambe in September during his ill-fated spell at the Coca-Cola League Two club.

Campbell has been training with Arsenal in an attempt to regain match fitness since walking out on County, but Arsene Wenger's willingness to welcome back his former captain is still a surprise because their previous association did not end happily.

It will be the second time that the Arsenal manager has signed Campbell on a free transfer, after the former Tottenham Hotspur captain left White Hart Lane nine years ago, and the first time that Wenger has re-signed a player in 14 years in North London.

disillusion

Campbell won two league titles and three FA Cups during his previous stay at Arsenal, but his final season at the club was characterised by disillusion, disappointment and questions surrounding his mental health.

He was deeply angered at being left out of Arsenal's FA Cup Final win over Manchester United in 2005. That generated a seething resentment that he took into the next season, which reached its nadir when he walked out on his team-mates at half time at Highbury during a Premier League defeat by West Ham United in February 2006.

Campbell was awol for several days, until he surfaced on holiday in Belgium, and did not play for the club for another two months.

However, Wenger stood by him, to such an extent that he was an integral part of the side that reached the Champions League final that season, in which Campbell scored Arsenal's goal in their 2-1 defeat by Barcelona.

Campbell's return to Arsenal is a marriage of convenience; the player is desperate to prove his worth after the County debacle and the club need back-up for Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas, the first-choice centre-backs.

Mikael Silvestre has not impressed, Johan Djourou is out until March with a knee injury and Philippe Senderos is expected to be sold once he recovers from an ankle problem. (© The Times, London)

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