Sol Campbell: 'There's a surprising, sad underbelly of abuse in football'

By Ellie ThomasonBBC Sport
Sol Campbell
Macclesfield Town have picked up more points in 10 games under Sol Campbell than they had in their opening 20 matches before his arrival

Macclesfield Town manager Sol Campbell says he has been surprised by a "really sad underbelly of abuse in football that has been left for far too long".

The Football Association is investigating claims that the 44-year-old was subjected to homophobic abuse during the Silkmen's visit to Cheltenham on Saturday.

Eleven games into his first job as manager, Campbell says he has faced abuse from opposing supporters on the terraces and at railway stations on his way home from games.

"I'm not even playing any more. I'm a manager. It's not like I've got anything against whoever I'm playing. I don't understand why there is animosity towards a manager who has got nothing to do with their club other than being the opposition," he said.

"I've just been a manager and I want to do my job."

Campbell played 73 times for England, three as captain, and won the Premier League twice with Arsenal, one of which was with the 'Invincibles' team of 2003-04.


How has Campbell been targeted in the past?

  • In 2001 Campbell became one of the first Premier League players to run down his contract to secure a free 'Bosman' transfer. He controversially moved from Tottenham to bitter rivals Arsenal. In 2018 he said he still gets abuse in the street from Spurs fans.
  • In his 2014 autobiography, Campbell claimed to have been subjected to monkey chants by fans as a young player.
  • Fans have often targeted Campbell with homophobic abuse. He is married to his wife and has three children. In 2014 he told the BBC: "It's archaic. They've almost got a blueprint of a 1970s footballer and if it deviates from that in any way, that's it. It's incredible."

He begins his managerial career four years after describing the lack of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) managers in English football as a "sad indictment" of the game.

"There are managers up and down this league who are well known through their career. There are other guys managing in the Championship or Scottish leagues who have had really good careers. Are they getting that sort of stick? I don't know.

"Maybe it's something else and it's not just me. At the lower levels things just get unchecked. The higher you go up there are more people checking these things and it gets reported.

"Sometimes money comes into it and people can't check everything but for me there is an underbelly which has to be looked at by the FA and the Football League."

'There have been fallouts' - Campbell on his managerial style

Sol Campbell
Macclesfield were five points adrift at the bottom of the English Football League when Campbell took charge

When Campbell was appointed Macclesfield manager in November, they were bottom of League Two, seven points from safety with just two wins from 19 league games.

Since then, they have won five of Campbell's 11 EFL games in charge, and while still in the relegation zone they are now just two points from safety.

"I had to change nearly everything. It's important to be open and honest and a lot of the guys had to get a reality check on a lot of things.

"At the beginning there was no anchor and they were drifting out to sea and not knowing where they'd end up.

"There were fallouts. Some people like it, some people don't like it but for me, I had to get the quickest way up the mountain.

"We were bottom of the league, all those points adrift and regardless of what they thought of me, I really haven't got time for that. I'm here to win games and they will see how I run the show and how I carry myself.

"I haven't proved anyone wrong. I haven't proved anyone right. Until the end of the season I haven't proved anything but the main thing is that we stay up. I'm really fighting to make that happen."

'I'm going to work my rear end off' - Campbell on fighting for his new career

Sol Campbell
Campbell says he wants to stay at Macclesfield as long as possible

Campbell says he is putting absolutely everything into his first managerial role, whilst balancing time with his family who are still in London.

Though Campbell jokes his children had never heard of Macclesfield before he took the job, the ex-Tottenham and Arsenal defender isn't planning on leaving Cheshire any time soon.

"The kids are really happy and they've come to a couple of games already. They've seen where daddy works and it's just about getting a place so they can spend more time up here."

Campbell, who also played for Portsmouth and Newcastle, has a Uefa Pro Licence, the highest coaching qualification available, which is mandatory for all first-team managers wishing to work in the Premier League, but Campbell isn't looking that far ahead.

When he was appointed at Macclesfield he said he submitted "at least 12-15 applications" as he sought that first role.

"It's all about getting this job done right and I want to stay here as long as possible. I'm totally focused and invested in this club," he said.

"I like where I'm living, I like the club, I like the owners, I like the people who are part of the club. I'm happy that the owner gave me a wonderful chance to manage his team and I'm eternally grateful for that and also the Macclesfield fans.

"I'm going to work my rear end off to really keep these guys up and at the same time enjoy it and play some good football. I've got to fight tooth and nail for my career, I have to work hard every day and that's what I'm doing here. This is my passion and people can't begrudge me fulfilling my passion."

Top Stories

Elsewhere on the BBC