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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Lost Sol

Sol Campbell, it appears, didn't enjoy being beside the seaside this weekend. His long-awaited Notts County debut ended in a 2-1 loss to Morecambe, with both goals for the home side being conceded via set-pieces.

Now, less than a month after joining the League Two club on a five-year deal and declaring his ambition of reaching the Premier League with them, Campbell has left by mutual consent.

Defeat at Christie Park saw County slip out of the top-seven, piling more pressure on manager Ian McParland. And in the Lancashire resort famous for its quicksands,
the former England international defender seems to have had that sinking feeling too.

Having spent his entire career in the top flight of English football, Saturday was bound to be a culture shock for the 34-year-old. Playing in front of packed houses at Wembley must have seemed a long way away when stepping out at Morecambe's less than salubrious surroundings.

The Shrimps were also searching for their first win of the season, and are a committed and hard-working side under Sammy McIlroy. Defenders, being pressed and harried, don't have the luxury of having time on the ball to pick out a pass.

Likewise, if Campbell didn't look forward to facing the like of Didier Drogba in the Premier League, big, strong centre forwards are the order of the day in League Two. Any journey up the pyramid was always going to be a rough ride on the pitch, if not off it.

Perhaps Campbell underestimated the physical challenge he would be facing? Or perhaps the experience of playing with professionals below the standard he was used to, who struggle to do the things he considers basic, or who are just not on the same wavelength, was simply 90 minutes too long.

The prospect of toiling his way through the last years of his football career in the bottom divisions was something that, suddenly, didn't appeal to him very much. The challenge he described as "refreshing" may soon become very stale,
£60,000 a week wages or not.

Campbell signed a five-year deal at Meadow Lane in August

The cynics would suggest money was the greatest motivating factor behind his move to Meadow Lane, although Campbell himself cited the chance to link-up again with his former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson, now working at Notts, as one of the reasons for joining the club.

No mention, interestingly, of current County boss McParland. Earlier this week, Executive Chairman Peter Trembling intimated that the manager's position was under pressure and is being reviewed "all the time" following their third successive away defeat.

A manager constantly looking over his shoulder and a set of players knowing that the man who picks the team could change any week is not the sound basis that a successful club is built upon. McParland's days, it seems, are numbered.

Is this just a sign of things to come for the oldest Football League club though? With great riches comes great oppurtunity, but also massive pressure. Any Notts manager will be expected to deliver instant results.

And are the board likely to be patient with the current group of players should they win promotion to League One? No. They will radically overhaul the squad in order to gain promotion to the Championship as quickly as possible.

Clubs need stability and continuity, not constant changes. Success requires a sensible transfer policy, not signing big-name players on huge wages. They need a manager too who will be given the support and time he needs, who knows what the lower leagues are all about, and that's not Sven.

County's dreams need a solid foundation. After all - shifting sands are no place to build on. They need only ask Morecambe that.


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