Former Tottenham, Arsenal and England footballer Sol Campbell will be in Bicester today, Saturday, when he visits Cole’s Bookstore to sign copies of his new book, Sol Campbell – The Authorised Biography.
Many people will remember Sol Campbell for his transfer across North London from Tottenham Hotspur to join their arch-North London rivals Arsenal in the summer of 2001 – a move that has rarely been made, and for good reason.
Despite the backlash and the hatred Campbell received from Tottenham fans, the defender went on to win two Premier League titles and two FA Cup trophies in his first spell at the club, before cancelling his contract in July 2006.
Campbell added a third FA Cup winner’s medal to his collection with Portsmouth two years later.
An England regular, Campbell captained the national side on three occasions and represented the Three Lions in six major competitions between 1996 and 2007.
Campbell ended his playing days at Newcastle United after a one match stint at Notts County in League Two, and a surprise return to Arsenal in January 2010, aged 35. Campbell retired in May 2012 when he was unable to find a suitable new club, and is currently studying for his coaching badges.
The former international defender has now produced his book working alongside author Simon Astaire with Spellbinding Media, after years of persuasion.
Speaking to the Advertiser and Review, Campbell said: “The book has been in planning for four to five years. Simon tried for a good three years to get me to do it, but I didn’t feel I was in the right space and at the right time in my career to do it. I think it’s all about timing in life and I felt that whilst I was playing, I wasn’t comfortable in bringing a book out.
“But now obviously, I’ve finished playing and created a family in between, so now it felt like the right time to reflect and talk about my feelings, how I looked at football, and how football looked at me.
“The process was at times arbitrary and difficult, but some parts of it were easy and joyous.
“A lot of people asked me if they could write it, but I just felt it wouldn’t represent me in the best way.
“The book has many layers to it, and I needed someone sensitive to the story, which Simon was.”
Since the book’s release on March 10, Campbell has received criticism for reports that claimed he said that had he been white, he would have captained England for more than a decade.
“I can’t choose the headlines, and I thought the serialisation of the book was great, but what I actually said was ‘within my 10-year career, I should have captained an England side many more times than I did’.
“At the start, people hung on a few headlines rather than looking at the book as a whole. Now people are starting to see it’s written in a quality, naked way. It’s written in a novelist’s way with my input as well and with a sensitivity that I felt was needed. You need to read it and absorb it.”
The book takes the reader through Campbell’s journey from East London, through his decorated career, and the struggles he has faced both on and off the pitch, such as racist and homophobic abuse, as well as struggles in his personal life.
“I was almost embarrassed by the abuse at the time. I couldn’t believe how all this happened to me and I was looking at myself as a secondary person. After a while there was a major part of my career in which these things would happen to me from time to time.
“I had it all, and when you break it down on human level it’s like: ‘Wow, I’m playing sport, getting all of this abuse verbally’, and it was very scary. I’m fortunate that I came out a human being because a lot of people could have lost it completely, and it did almost derail my career.
“But football is at my heart. I wasn’t forthcoming with a lot of things at the time, but the book now says it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk to journalists all the time, I was just unnerved.
“I wanted the book to explain my side of it, what I went through and then it transcends into football.
“It’s exactly what I wanted to achieve, it shows the method behind me, how I think about football and life, how they look at me, and how I deal with that.”
For these reasons, Sol Campbell – The Authorised Biography is far more than a football book, and Campbell believes that readers from sporting backgrounds or not, will be able to relate to his story.
“On a human level I think people will be able to warm to the stories of me being a baby and the life I led and then going through to football, the whole arc of my life, which people can understand and engage in.
“It’s beautifully written, well-layered and goes in and out of different parts of my life and through the journey I’ve been on.”
Sol Campbell will be at Cole’s Books, 4 Crown Walk, Bicester, from 1pm.