Still waters run deep is how the proverb goes. And there are few athletes as still, as impenetrable as Sulzeer Jeremiah Campbell. Here is a man who has spent the last thirteen years defying lazy footballer stereotypes whilst going about his business of de-constructing attacking moves with a level of stealth that is almost perverse in its ability to go unnoticed. All the while his sphinx-like visage and ice-cold demeanour have combined to keep us all at bay and denied us the opportunity to proclaim 'this is what Sol Campbell is about, this is who he is, this why he was good and this is why he is now bad'.
He has let the mask slip though. But only twice. Both times playing for England in international tournaments, when he thought that he'd won the contest for his country, only to have the glory snatched away. In the anguish writ large over his face, we saw just how important it was to this man to win and to set the standard on the global stage. Setting the standard is exactly what he did, as Campbell was voted into the 'team of the tournament' on both occasions by the real experts, the technical study groups of FIFA and UEFA respectively. Rated as the best of the best, but not able to take his team all the way, and in those fleeting moments, the pain really showed. The only clues that we have been given then, is that Campbell cares very deeply about playing for his country and after the trauma of Wednesday night, the received opinion is that he is going to be denied the opportunity to make any kind of impression in Germany this summer.
What is wrong with Sol then? Has he lost control? Too old? Too rich? Some Arsenal fans might have it that he is no longer committed, that he is no longer making an effort. But how can you say that of a player whose gift has always been to appear as if he does not need to make any effort at all? Certainly, Campbell appears to have lost focus, but we have no idea why, and perhaps the fact that he has never revealed his life to us, might remind us that players do have a life away from the arena and that like anyone, their focus can be disrupted by the ups and downs of the everyday.
Don't write him off too quickly though. Towards the end of the 2002/03 Premiership season, Campbell was red-carded for apparently elbowing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He missed the last four games of the season and could only watch as the title was conceded to Manchester United and his teammates lifted the FA Cup without him. Sol came back from that, and we'll back him to come back from this.
He can't pass though.