Sol Campbell: The Games That Changed My Life

Tottenham edge out Arsenal in the former centre-back's list of most significant matches

December 5, 1992: Tottenham 1-2 Chelsea 

I never dreamed I’d actually score a goal – it was just a great feeling to come on and play!

“Nothing ever prepares you for your debut. I had about 20 minutes to impress; to do something special. I never dreamed I’d actually score a goal – it was just a great feeling to come on and play! It was special, but getting there just made me even more determined to succeed. Two or three years after making their debuts, most lads are out of the game. I wasn’t going to let that happen to me.”

May 18, 1996: England 3-0 Hungary 

“When you make your international debut you don’t mind who it’s against – for me it was Hungary and I came off the bench, just before Euro 96. It all goes past in a blur but I tried to enjoy the moment. It’s a strange experience, being on the pitch with team-mates you don’t really know.

"Being part of that great England side and coming so close to the final of that tournament was one of my best experiences in football. I was extremely proud to represent my country.”

Sol Campbell

Campbell won 73 England caps over an eight-year period

March 21, 1999: Leicester 0-1 Tottenham

I made history that day: I was the first black captain to lift a cup at Wembley

“Captaining Spurs to my first cup final, against Leicester at Wembley, was fantastic. Winning the League Cup felt like a landmark moment in my career. What made it all the more special was that we went down to 10 men. You develop a siege mentality and run that bit harder for every ball.

"By extra time, the truth be known, we were really struggling. Sometimes you need a bit of luck. And I made history that day: I was the first black captain to lift a cup at Wembley.”

May 4, 2002: Arsenal 2-0 Chelsea 

We were so good that year. I was under pressure, in particular, because I had left Tottenham for their arch rivals and all eyes were on me to see if I’d made a good move or not. I had to prove to everyone that I’d done the right thing for Arsenal and for myself.

"And for me to come out of that first season, under all of that pressure, and win the Double was amazing [Arsenal won the Premier League a week after beating Chelsea in the FA Cup final]. It also showed I was in the right team.”

December 5, 2010: West Brom 3-1 Newcastle  

[Reaching 500 games] shows class, fortitude, discipline and a bit of luck

"It was an insignificant game in many ways, but not for me: it represented my 500th Premier League appearance. I hadn’t been at Newcastle long and I wouldn’t stay long, either. Let’s just say it was an interesting time...

"But it was good to reach 500 – and that’s just league games. Not many players have done that. It shows your quality over a long period of time. It shows class, fortitude, discipline and a bit of luck. It’s like going unbeaten for a whole season – I guess that game [the 2-1 win against Leicester on the final day of Arsenal’s 2003/04 Invincibles season] would be my Game No.6!"

This feature originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!

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