Sol Campbell won three FA Cups, two Premier League titles and 73 caps in a distinguished playing career, but he still thinks about two disallowed goals that came too early for video assistant referees to reverse.
The 44-year-old Londoner is now Macclesfield’s manager, but he is better known for his commanding performances in defence for Tottenham, Arsenal, Portsmouth and England.
Tall, strong and athletic, Campbell was also an aerial threat from set pieces, although he only scored once for England.
But, speaking to Press Association Sport this week, Campbell said his international tally is two goals light.
The first came against Argentina in the first knockout round of the 1998 World Cup. With 10 minutes to play and the score level at 2-2, Campbell headed home Darren Anderton’s corner, only for the referee to rule that Alan Shearer had impeded the goalkeeper.
Having been down to 10 men since the 47th minute, thanks to David Beckham’s red card, an exhausted England could only hang for a penalty shoot-out they would lose.
The second came with only a minute left on the clock of their Euro 2004 quarter-final with Portugal. Michael Owen headed Beckham’s free-kick on to the bar and Campbell rose highest to nod home and give England what he thought would be a memorable 2-1 win over the hosts and a place in the last four.
But, once more, the referee disagreed, with John Terry adjudged to have impeded the goalkeeper this time, sending the game to extra-time, penalties and another agonising defeat.
Asked which of those decisions annoys him most, Campbell said: “I think it’s the one against Portugal.
“The ball has gone that way, the keeper that way…I still think, if it was Portugal scoring, it would have been a goal.
“Obviously, there’s the other one with Argentina, but the Portugal one would have taken us to a semi-final.
“If you look at it again there are people jumping up for the ball, not holding anyone, the ball spun this way, the keeper that way. OK, John Terry is there (but) it’s a goal. I thought I’d scored, I’m in the crowd!
“With the Argentina goal, Shearer is there, the ball is there, the keeper has come up, but it’s there for him to save it. I think it’s a goal.
I think if (VAR) was in play we’d get one of those goals.Sol Campbell
“It’s just ‘whatever’ now, but I think if (VAR) was in play we’d get one of those goals.”
Tired of the controversies and debates caused by decisions like those, FIFA finally agreed to trial video replays in 2016 and then introduced VAR at last summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Unlike most European leagues, the Premier League chose not to introduce VAR for this season, but has subsequently confirmed that the system will be used next season and UEFA has also decided to bring it in for the knockout stages of the Champions League and Europa League.
Campbell sees its eventual introduction throughout the professional game as inevitable, although he believes there are still some issues to be ironed out.
“It can work for you and it can work against you and there is still interpretation there,” he said.
“It’s not cut and dried yet, it’s work in progress. But obviously it’s the future and you’ve got to have something like that because there’s too much on games now and I think the players will just get used to it.”