When Sol Campbell signed for Notts County, I found it hard to take it seriously. A player who had played at the very highest level of the game for the best part of two decades plying his trade in the bottom tier of English football.

This, I said to myself, is going to end in tears.

At the time, the former Arsenal and England defender went to great lengths to explain how excited he was by the whole County 'project' - a five-year plan to get the club towards the top of the league pyramid.

Linking up again with Sven-Goran Eriksson, his former international boss, was also a big factor in his decision, he said, neglecting to mention the rumoured £40,000 a-week newly-rich County were sticking into his bank account.

To be honest, it did seem like a sweet plan. A player prepared to plunge down the leagues and invest the last bit of his career in helping a small club grow. All very Roy of the Rovers.

But there is one thing I think Campbell failed to take into consideration when he made his decision - the standard of football he was getting in to. And I think that is why the big man walked out on County last week after making just one appearance for the club.

Campbell is used to playing alongside seasoned internationals. The only international experience most of his teammates at County had was watching games on Sky.

And I think that gulf in class from Premiership to League Two was just too much for the 35-year-old to handle.

His solitary appearance came on Saturday against tiny Morecambe - a game County lost 2-1. And I can only imagine what a culture shock it was for him turning out in a small seaside stadium to play against opponents who would struggle to beat Arsenal's fourth team. Yet still managed to beat his. And that is when it probably hit home that this was not the place for him.

Campbell had suggested, and kept a straight face while doing so, that he still harbours ambitions to get into the England squad for the next World Cup. As unlikely as that is - and believe me it is unlikely - it was never going to happen while he was turning out against the likes of Morecambe week in, week out.

By quitting now you can argue Campbell has shot himself in the foot. There is little chance he will be allowed to join a Premier League club before January, which effectively downgrades his England chances from extremely remote to non-existent.

But you have to admire his ethics. He could easily have just gone through the motions with County, picking up his hefty paycheque every week and quitting in January when the a move elsewhere would have been easier.

This whole fiasco, and I don't think it is unfair to describe it as such, shows that things are not quite going according to plan with the County experiment.

Despite spending fortunes by League Two standards, they have hardly set the division alight so far: They have now lost their last three away games and slipped to an unremarkable eighth in the league.

And that has put doubts over the future of manager Ian McParland, who has been described as being 'under pressure' by his own chairman. Never a good sign.

Then again, how many of us saw that coming? Right from the start I said McParland was living on borrowed time, and the moment would come when he is shown the door, allowing Eriksson to sprint down from his directors box to save the day on the pitch.

I was sure at the time that Eriksson had his eyes on the manager's role, and I am even more convinced that is now the case, because maybe, just maybe, if the Swede had been running things on the pitch Campbell wouldn't have walked out the door.

It's one thing attracting big names to play for the club by flashing the cash, but if performances on the pitch and results are not up to scratch, those big names are not going to hang around for long. Let's be honest. Who is Ian McParland to tell Sol Campbell what to do?

A lower league manager with no experience of the big time trying to tell a veteran international defender with scores of medals to his name how to play football.

As a project I am not entirely against the Notts County one. It is nice that a small club are getting some of the silly money that is normally invested in the Premier League.

But, if that project is to succeed, I think they need a big name manager to lead the charge. Someone who the stars they are signing can listen to with respect. Someone who has been there and done it before. Someone like Eriksson.

If that doesn't happen, I think Campbell might not be the last player to make his debut and swansong for the club in the same match.

Caps off to Fabio

Being England manager is a job that comes with a lot of perks, notably millions of pounds a year and plenty of time off to spend it. But the job also has a dark side to it - the English media.

Over the years, Fleet Street have been ruthless in their pursuit of whoever happened to be in charge of the Three Lions at the time, desperate to catch them out and discredit them at every available opportunity.

Since Fabio Capello took the position, though, things have changed. It's almost as if the media are scared of annoying a man who is actually doing a good job of running the national team.

You never see Capello on the front pages, and when he is on the back pages he is always treated with respect - unlike Graham Taylor, for example, who was famously photoshopped into a turnip by The Sun.

This week, however, Capello got a taste of what might happen if things start to go wrong for him, and the unwritten truce between him and the media is broken.

The Daily Mail printed photos of the Italian on holiday with his wife. Nothing overly intrusive there. But they happened to be wallowing around in a mud bath at the time the photos were snapped. Somewhat less than flattering.

In the past this is exactly the sort of thing that would have been printed on a weekly basis. In fact, you could hardly buy a Sunday paper for years without being greeted by Eriksson's grinning face surrounded by random cleavages. Many of those cleavages containing dents that looked suspiciously like they had been made by small, rimless spectacles.

Yet, this time the media didn't defend their muddy snaps. Instead they took them down from their websites and actually apologised for the intrusion into Capello's private life. Remarkable.

That means the Italian has now made two startling achievements since he arrived in England. Not only has he transformed the players from mice into men, he has turned the media from men into mice.

Is there nothing this man can't do? If it wasn't for the whole nationality thing, they should make him Prime Minister.

sportscolumnist@timesofmalta.com

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