When Sol Campbell(above) left Spurs in 2001 for Arsenal, it was hard to imagine the England centre back would be the target of nearly as much invective from Tottenham fans nearly a decade later. To hear Spurs manager Harry Redknapp — who supervised Campbell for two seasons at Portsmouth prior to a surprise return to the Gunners this winter — tell the tale, Wednesday night’s North London Derby will provide the patrons at White Hart Lane with ample opportunity to intimidate a former favorite. “”I never thought he would want to go anywhere near Arsenal again,” Redknapp tells The Guardian’s David Hytner and Dominic Fifield.
“I wouldn’t want to say what he told me but he wasn’t happy. He just felt he didn’t want to be there and he was desperate to get out. I never thought Arsenal would take him back, either. They were very pleased to let him go before.”
Redknapp said that he knew of no player who had suffered more terrace abuse than Campbell, a hate figure in the eyes of the Tottenham crowd. In September 2008, when Campbell played for Portsmouth against Tottenham at Fratton Park, police made 11 arrests, following sickening chants from the away enclosure. Six of the fans were banned from football for three years, with the other five receiving cautions.
“I can’t think of anyone who would get much worse than Sol nowadays,” said Redknapp, who revealed that Campbell took a £3m-a-year wage cut to swap Arsenal for Portsmouth. “It has been a long-running saga but they have got the hump with him here at Tottenham and they are not going to forgive him.
“He will get it again. That can happen. They pay their money and they are going to do what they want to do, aren’t they? I just hope they don’t do or shout anything silly. Sure, if they want to jeer him or whatever that is fine but we saw trouble before at Portsmouth with people making remarks that weren’t right. You do not want that.”
The Metropolitan police and Tottenham have classified the game in their highest risk bracket. “An appropriate policing plan is in place,” said a police spokesman. “We are working closely with both clubs and should any apparent offences come to light, they will be dealt with appropriately.”