Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sol Campbell makes his debut for Newcastle United

After an ill-fated experience playing in black and white last year with Notts County, Sol Campbell tonight gets his enormous frame up to make his first bow as Newcastle United alum against Chelsea. It could prove a very interesting occasion as during his cup of coffee at the Emirates last season he proved he can still be a very effective positional defender, if not as athletically dominant as he was in his pomp. And to be fair, Sol's pomp was a decade ago.

Newcastle seems well-endowed with athletically-limited-but-good-positionally centre backs this season especially considering Steven Taylor has yet to feature due to his pre-season shoulder dislocation. Fabricio Coloccini could perhaps be the archetypal leaden-footed battalion commander and understudy Mike Williamson has won many initial skeptics over since his transfer from Portsmouth in January. It's likely that we'll see at least Williamson tonight as Chris Hughton experiments with a squad which has remained relatively steadfast over the course of the season so far.

Tim Krul and Ole Soderberg take the reins as goalkeeper and backup after Steve Harper's shoulder injury and they may face a flurry of peppered shots from the young legs fielded by Chelsea. Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti has made noises about starting several youthful players, especially as Captain John Terry and playmaker Frank Lampard sit out with injuries. Dan Sturridge has looked impressive, particularly in last week's Champions League tie and is blessed with pace that would win him selection for most countries Olympics squads, while Gael Kakuta has been long-trumpeted as the speedy future of Chelsea's left flank. To match up with another Premier League side in the third round of the competition could be disappointing for Premiership sides seeking advancement and eventually silverware, but could Chelsea really look for more encouragement for their youth than being faced with sticks-in-the-mud Campbell and Alan Smith?

Campbell comes to Newcastle after rebuffing interest from other EPL clubs including Arsenal. On arriving Tyneside, he said it was nice to feel wanted again and the Toon army should be confident he in him being more an asset this term than a hindrance. But in choosing to debut him in this match, Hughton's chosen a curious time. Sure, it's the Carling Cup and no-one will mind particularly if Newcastle are beaten by heavily-favoured Chelsea. But with his pace comparable to a guy in a bogged wheelchair the fixture very much becomes feast or famine. Either Campbell will be exposed for pace or he will triumph simply by his smarts; middle ground will prove very difficult to come across.

To quote Aussie race driver Dick Johnson “Old Age and dirty tricks will always triumph over youth and exuberance”. Agreeable sentiments you'll agree. But this age-old Immovable Object and Irresistible force dilemma could be skewed when the youth of Chelsea choose not to run through the Immovable Object but around it.

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