Should Arsenal bring Sol Campbell back again?

Arsenal legend Sol Campbell has outlined his hopes of becoming a coach but believes he may have to move abroad to find employment due to ‘archaic’ attitudes towards black footballers.

The 39-year-old former Gunners defender who was born in the London Borough of Newham made over 100 appearances for Arsenal after his well-documented switch from Tottenham in 2001.

The former Spurs man also earned 73 caps for his country with England, won three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, playing for over a decade at the highest level at both club and international level.

"I want to start abroad," he explained in an interview with The Guardian.

"There are no opportunities for me here, not until attitudes change anyway. Everyone has to ask themselves why there are not more black managers in this country.”

“I've spoken to other black players who want to coach and they feel the same, that attitudes here are archaic. I hope and pray the environment changes,” he added.

It’s statistically undeniable that black managers are a minority in English football – in the Premier League, Norwich’s Chris Hughton remains the only black manager out of 20 teams, and out of the 92 professional clubs under the Football Association’s jurisdiction, only four teams employ a black manager.

"I gave my heart and soul for the national team but the FA were not there for me when I had problems," he continued.

"Even after that, I still wanted to do something with the England setup, and they said they were interested, but the interest went cold. Suddenly, Gary Neville pops up as assistant manager. It's obvious they want nice people who won't cause them any problems. I put out an olive branch and it got broken, but whatever, I'm ready to move on."

Campbell is not the first black professional footballer to point to these issues and, as he says, unless there is a change in attitudes in this country, he’ll likely not be the last. However, one club that has always been pro-active and supportive in fostering unity between players of differing races, religions and national backgrounds is Arsenal – especially under Arsene Wenger.

Campbell returned to Arsenal in 2010 briefly to train and even managed to help out the team with 14 appearances that term – he is a legend of the club, a local London boy born and bred and he is calling out for a chance to learn, develop and make progress for himself and those who he represents.

Given how loyal a servant he was to the Gunners over the years, I would hope Arsene Wenger, with his social and political understanding, and progressive philosophy would be inclined to offer him a role in some capacity. In fact, I can’t think of anything more fitting. Somebody's got to be willing to start a Facebook group at the very least. 'Give Sol A Chance' or 'Save Our Sol' or 'Yes We Campbell'. You get the jist.

The voices of fans were heard loud and clear this summer - that resounded around the Emirates and all across the world to bring Mesut Ozil from Madrid to North London. Those same voices could keep Sol Campbell in England where he is valued and he is respected and he is equal.

The FA may not be willing to listen to black players but the voices of the people cannot be ignored and it only takes one person to make a difference. Football is a microcosm of society in many ways and if racism can be eradicated from the nation's favourite sport, it can be eradicated from society. Attitudes don't change overnight but they can and do change.

Sol Campbell and the countless others in his situation should not be marginalized from their chosen profession on the basis of their race and or their choice to speak out and stand up against racism. Black players should be supported with actions, not slogans on t-shirts or derisory fines and bans handed to those who racially abuse them right in front of the eyes of the nation and the world. I don't want to see or hear racism in my day-to-day life and I certainly don't want to see it in football but pretending it doesn't exist is not going to change it.

The message needs to be loud and clear, not from the FA or the PFA but from the fans who buy the t-shirts and the TV subscription packages and the season tickets and the pints in the pub - we won't tolerate racism on our watch and neither should you if you want us to keep watching. We are the majority, not racists. They are the minority group.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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