6 reasons why Sol Campbell could be a mistake for Macclesfield Town

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 04 December 2018, 11:01

Any manager who takes charge of Macclesfield Town at this point is in for a very difficult job, as the club sits bottom of the League Two table with just 13 points from their first 20 games.

Although it is possible that Sol Campbell could prove a success at Moss Rose, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that chairman Mark Blower and director Amar Alkadhi might have made a mistake in appointing him as manager. Here’s why.

1. He’s not Whitaker

Fans identified with club legend Danny Whitaker, who had been interim manager prior to Campbell’s arrival.

Of course, that is partly down to his long-term connection to the club, much like John Askey.

Whitaker was born in nearby Wilmslow, he came through the club’s academy, he played 380 games for the Silkmen over two separate spells spanning a decade and scored a crucial goal that helped them back into the EFL.

As much as anything though, Whitaker always emphasized the importance of the collective.

As we saw with Michael Flynn at Newport in 2016-17, a local figure with a team-orientated mentality can have a galvanizing impact – even in times of serious trouble.

2. He doesn’t understand League Two culture

For Macclesfield to stay in the EFL, they will need to not only overcome disadvantages in terms of finances and infrastructure, but also make up ground.

Over the last six seasons, the lowest points tally of any team to survive is 43, which Newport amassed in 2015-16.

If, optimistically, we assume that 43 points will be enough, then Macclesfield require 30 from 26 games; that’s a 77% increase on their current points per game rate.

If the north-west outfit are to achieve such a drastic improvement, they will require a Dunkirk Spirit.

It could be questioned whether they can cultivate that type of spirit, if their leader frequently talks up his own ability, discusses his own career ambitions and acts almost as though his mere presence does Macclesfield a favour.

One of his first comments in the role was: “you've got an international footballer, who has been one of the best footballers in the world, coming to your club".

 

That line implies that Campbell expects to be greeted by a lot of supporters who are keen to revere him based on his playing past; in which case, he needs to understand lower league fan culture.

If fans wanted to idolize over famous footballers, they would instead be supporting an elite club; Macclesfield is a community club in which fans, players and staff show mutual respect and connect on even terms.

3. Off-field controversies

Controversy appears to follow Campbell everywhere he goes.

He moved to Arsenal after a 12-year association with fierce rivals Tottenham. Of course, that transfer was vindicated somewhat by the historic success he achieved with the Gunners, including the Invincibles campaign in 2003-04, but it does imply a lack of loyalty to a club that shaped his development.

Campbell actively supported the Vote Leave campaign, which some would say was based on anti-immigration propaganda, despite having Nigerian parents; he had expressed no public opinions on the downsides to England’s involvement in the European Union before the bandwagon was available to jump on.

He claims he would have been England captain for over 10 years if he was white when, if he wanted to make a serious point about discrimination within the FA, it would have held more credence to have done so in a less egotistical way.

He said in 2014 that the game “isn’t ready” for openly gay footballers and, although of course that comment was not made with any homophobic intentions, it does appear to be a slightly backward and possibly negative viewpoint to have held in the 21st century.

Beyond this, he unsuccessfully tried to run for Mayor of London without any obvious preparation; the man seems to have a habit of stirring up controversy in a way that does not appear to be based on principles.

4. He seeks attention

If some of the above actions were isolated and/or carried out without an heir of arrogant fame-seeking, he might have a bit more respect.

Instead, Campbell’s history implies a man that does not have a particularly clear sense of his own roots and a man who is doing things to generate attention.

He has found, after gaining some bad publicity, that he is not getting as much of the spotlight as he used to be and thus is taking a job at a club desperate enough to gamble their EFL future on a publicity stunt.

For a week or two, Campbell’s antics might generate some mainstream interest but, when we consider that Stevenage’s average attendance only increased by 158 in the season they appointed Teddy Sheringham, it is clear that managerial credentials should be prioritized over playing past.

5. Limited knowledge

At a recent interview for a manager position other than Macclesfield, Campbell was reportedly asked to name players for the club in question and could not do so.

 

When we look at one of the main things that, for example, got Unai Emery the Arsenal job in the summer, it was that he researched in detail every player contracted to the club. From the first team to the youth team, he analysed the strengths, weaknesses and style of every player plus how he could improve them.

The information appears to be that although Campbell has prepared for management in terms of finding out coaching techniques and working with England Under-21s, he has not prepared himself in terms of finding out about Macclesfield’s squad, which implies an overreliance on his reputation.

Whitaker would have known that, for example, Ben Stephens, who signed from Stratford Town in the summer, is a bright second striker with potential, but Campbell is likely to have no prior knowledge of his capabilities.

6. Prior results had picked up

In November, centre-back Nathan Cameron joined from Bury on a two-month contract; he has offered some much-needed experience to guide younger, ball-playing partner Fiacre Kelleher, on loan from Oxford.

With long-throw specialist James Pearson slotting in at right-back following Jared Hodgkiss’ injury, David Fitzpatrick offering solidity at left-back and Michael Rose anchoring the midfield, the Silkmen now have a solid spine, completed by a good goalkeeper in Manchester United loanee Kieran O’Hara.

Having built on a steady display at MK Dons, albeit in a 2-0 defeat, the Silkmen have accrued back-to-back wins over Yeovil and Exeter, giving themselves at least a platform to keep in touch with the teams above them.

By appointing Campbell, they could be throwing all that momentum up into the air; the club have taken the ultimate risk on a decision they could not to get wrong.

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