Sol Campbell travelled abroad so much in search of his first managerial position that he “should be an ambassador for British Airways” – and yet he ended up in the small Cheshire market town of Macclesfield.
Campbell submitted “at least 12-15 applications” as he sought that first role, he told BBC Sport. He travelled far and wide seeking every nugget of information he could so that when the opportunity arose, he was ready.
He watched as his former England team-mates Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard took over the reins at Rangers and Derby respectively, left wondering if it was ever going to happen for him.
At last it has. The two-time Premier League winner, who declared himself “one of the best players in the world”, is in charge of the Silkmen – the club at the very bottom of the football league.
“No. I played at Portsmouth – that’s an interesting place to play too, fantastic fans,” the 44-year-old said.
Campbell, who controversially moved from Tottenham to North London rivals Arsenal in 2001, retired from playing in 2012 with a move into coaching his planned next step.
He spent time honing his skills on the other side of the touchline – his meticulous attention to detail apparent in his preparations for his next role.
“I’ve gone to football abroad and at home, for two, three, four, five-day stints, watching training sessions, watching how managers take training into games,” he said.
“I’ve been up and down on trains, planes – I should be an ambassador for British Airways with all the miles I have clocked up.
“I’ve done lots of detailed training plans, I’ve taken my pictures, I’ve been around and I’ve asked questions as well, I’ve done a lot of stuff off my own back, quietly going about my business.”
In the seven years since his retirement, Campbell has been assistant manager of the Trinidad and Tobago national team and spent time coaching with England’s Under-21 side.
|Sol Campbell’s playing career|
|Club (Years)||Appearances (Goals)|
|Tottenham (1992-01)||255 (10)|
|Arsenal (2001-06)||135 (8)|
|Portsmouth (2006-09)||95 (2)|
|Notts County (2009)||1 (0)|
|Arsenal (2010)||11 (0)|
|Newcastle (2010-11)||7 (0)|
So why has it taken so long to become a manager?
“It has been a long time coming. I think I have been patient,” he said. “I know a lot of players out there who want to be managers are having difficulties in getting a job as well, so my situation is not unique.
“There are a lot of people going for jobs up and down the country and around the world. Competition is fierce.
“Some guys have probably got better networks, who knows, but for me it was all about getting on that ladder, on that treadmill, and getting going.”
Campbell 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. His appointment makes him the eighth current BAME manager in England’s top four divisions.
Former Manchester United and Wolves midfielder Paul Ince also started his coaching career at Macclesfield and has spoken of his “sadness” that Campbell has had to start his managerial career so far down the football pyramid.
“For me, the colour of your skin is academic,” says Campbell. “It’s all about working hard, knocking on doors, and waiting for that opportunity.
“I wasn’t going to be prepared to stand and wait for another six months or year. Now I’m on the ladder, I’m just going to do the best job possible.”
That opportunity has finally come his way, yet he faces another battle with the Silkmen currently bottom of League Two, five points from safety.
Perhaps their fortunes are changing though. Macclesfield have won their last two games and their new gaffer watched from the stands as they beat Exeter on Tuesday for only their third league win this season.
But while Campbell knows his new side are “not out of the woods”, he is already confident in his team’s talent and potential.
“I am a football man. I’ve got passion for football. I want to get dirty and roll my sleeves up,” he said.
“I wanted to take this with both hands, do the best job I can do for Macclesfield, get this job done and get this club up the table where they should be.”
Sol Campbell was speaking to BBC Sport correspondent David Ornstein.