Former England defender Sol Campbell has said “it’s good to be back in football” after being appointed manager of League Two side Macclesfield Town.
It is the 44-year-old’s first role as a manager and he has taken charge with the Silkmen five points adrift at the foot of the English Football League.
Campbell played 73 times for England and appeared in six major tournaments.
He also won several domestic honours, including Premier League titles with Arsenal in 2001-02 and 2003-04.
Campbell, who was in Exeter to watch his new side in action on Tuesday, told BBC Sport that he was pleased to get the job and that his players were “up for it”. He will address the media on Thursday.
Macclesfield were National League champions last season but have struggled on their return to the EFL, winning only two of their 19 league games so far this season.
BBC Radio Manchester reported on 23 November that Campbell had held initial talks with Macclesfield, and he was pictured on Tuesday arriving at the club’s Moss Rose ground to finalise an 18-month contract.
Campbell’s chance finally comes
Since retiring as a player in 2012, Campbell has been linked with managerial jobs at Grimsby Town and Oxford United.
He once described himself as “one of the greatest minds in football” and, in 2014, claimed he would have been “England captain for more than 10 years” had he been white.
Away from football, in 2015 Campbell declared his intention to become Mayor of London as a Conservative candidate, but was not included on the party’s final shortlist.
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.
The former Tottenham, Portsmouth and Newcastle centre-back has a Uefa Pro Licence, the highest coaching qualification available, which is mandatory for all first-team managers wishing to work in the Premier League.
That qualification was gained with the Welsh FA. “I wanted to be with different people with different ideas. I have been with the English FA since I was 14 years old but they’ve not really made me feel welcome,” he told the Guardian in 2013.
However, he has recently been working alongside England Under-21 boss Aidy Boothroyd as part of a Football Association initiative to address the issue of under-representation of BAME coaches.
“The more [BAME] guys who qualify for their coaching badges at B, A and Pro, the better it is,” he told the FA website.
“The main thing is that the pathways are there and that’s key and the FA are addressing that.
“The best moment for me was when I actually got on the pitch and I was a part of the sessions.
“There’s things you have to do yourself and it’s given me the confidence to know that I’ve got the tools, but I just need to get a situation and a nice gig somewhere.”
Campbell’s appointment takes the number of BAME managers in England’s top four divisions up to eight:
- Chris Hughton (Brighton & Hove Albion)
- Nuno Espirito Santo (Wolves)
- Jos Luhukay (Sheffield Wednesday)
- Darren Moore (West Bromwich Albion)
- Chris Powell (Southend United)
- Keith Curle (Northampton Town)
- Dino Maamria (Stevenage)
- Sol Campbell (Macclesfield Town)
Echoes of Ince appointment
Campbell follows in the footsteps of former England team-mate Paul Ince by taking charge of a Macclesfield side struggling at the bottom of England’s fourth tier.
Ince was handed his first managerial job by the Silkmen in October 2006. They were seven points adrift at the foot of the table when he was appointed, but he guided Macclesfield to 22nd place in League Two before leaving for MK Dons.
He went on to take charge of Blackburn, Notts County and Blackpool, but has been out of management since January 2014.
Mike Minay, BBC Radio Manchester
It is a strange appointment for Macclesfield but one that will ultimately generate a bit of attention and positive PR for a club that, so far, has been full of negativity this season.
Since John Askey’s departure in the summer, the club got it wrong with Mark Yates and putting club legend Danny Whitaker in temporary charge has failed to light any touch paper, so maybe this is the spark they need.
The vacancy screamed for someone with experience, but the owners have chosen differently. Mind you, it worked before with Paul Ince.
Campbell, proven as a player, seems ready for it, with various speeches and social media postings suggesting he has worked hard for his coaching badges and is fully prepared for his first managerial position.
The top line, I think, in all of this is “time will tell”.