FORMER Arsenal (and Spurs) defender Sol Campbell announced his retirement today. The joke was always that Sol dreamed of winning the league at White Hart Lane and in the end did – a reference to the fact Arsenal clinched the title at Tottenham’s ground way back in 2004. My memories of meeting big Sol on a couple of occasions away from a football ground still raise a giggle. .
1. Sol was invited to Acland Burghley school in 2003 to promote a charity alongside a boy band that nobody ever heard of again called Phixx. Strict rules, only one class was allowed to meet Sol and Phixx in the playground to get pictures and autographs. The then headteacher Michael Shew made sure he got a signed something as well, see picture above. Upset at missing the chance to meet the footballer, the rest of school watched from the windows until one crafty teenager thought: I know I’ll set the fire alarm off. The emergency response drill meant all of the school’s pupils had to file into the playground where Sol and Phixx were and everybody got the opportunity to give Sol a hug. Staff quickly found: THERE WAS NO FIRE.
2. Whittington Hospital – the Christmas rounds. Every December Arsenal sends a delegation of players to give presents to the children unfortunate enough to be spending the holidays in hospital. One year Sol and his colleagues were sent and spent half an hour signing cards for patients and staff. One confused nurse went up to Phillipe Senderos, recalled as a hapless, lanky centre half now at Fulham, and asked him: ‘Are you David Beckham?’ Rarely seen without worry lines across his forehead, Senderos apologised profusely for not ‘being David Beckham’. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. When the rather deflated nurse had gone, Sol, sitting next to him, leaned over and said to his younger colleague: ‘Never apologise for who you are – never’. Deep.