Sol Campbell has rolled his sleeves up and taken the plunge into what he hopes will be a successful coaching career.
It is not, however, necessarily the expected first step for a former player of Campbell's pedigree and standing in the game. Instead of taking a job back in England, the veteran of three World Cups accepted a call in January from incoming Trinidad and Tobago head coach Dennis Lawrence as the Caribbean side embarked on its tricky journey in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
In a Port of Spain hotel on Monday ahead of the Soca Warriors' crucial World Cup qualifying match against Mexico on Tuesday, ESPN FC got insight into where the 42-year-old Trinidad and Tobago assistant manager is and where he would like his coaching career to take him.
(This interview has been edited for clarity.)
ESPN FC: How did the job as assistant manager with Trinidad and Tobago come about?
Sol Campbell: Well, I got a phone call from Dennis Lawrence out of the blue, and that kind of started the ball rolling. Me and Dennis were on the same coaching courses on the Welsh FA. Once he got the job, he was looking around for coaches, and he phoned me, and I accepted, and I'm pleased to be here.
ESPN FC: What in particular attracted you to the job?
Campbell: I think you have to look at the whole situation. Dennis is a very experienced coach, and he coached at Wigan and Everton (under Roberto Martinez). Being there and understanding how he worked and how he puts detail into his work attracted me as well. I love international football. There's a challenge here, and I love a challenge, but for me, I totally believe his philosophy, and the staff he has assembled here is very, very professional. For me, it was a no-brainer to join.
ESPN FC: Assistant managers have varying roles, depending on the club or country setup. What are you specifically doing with Trinidad and Tobago?
Campbell: [I'm] looking at the whole team and saying my stuff. Taking sessions, working with the back four. [Coach] Stern [John] wasn't with us for a while, and I had to do a little bit of forward practice and shooting. It was fun! But I'm kind of looking at the back four and how the system works. Obviously, Dennis has his own ideas of how he wants football to be played, and it's good for him to be able to bounce ideas off, and so I'm part of that as well. It's usually just defenders and midfielders and looking around and being an expert eye on international football on what you can do, what you can't get away with, helping talking to some of the players in certain situations, certain positions, passing on my knowledge as well.
ESPN FC: Is this a long-term gig for you?
Campbell: For me, it's up to October, that's our last [World Cup qualifying] game. If we qualify, from there I'd roll on into the summer. I've been here for two and a bit weeks, and I've enjoyed my time. Dennis has brought in a fantastic team and is ultra-professional and detailed, and that's what I like about him.
ESPN FC: Your ambition must be to become a manager in the future?
ESPN FC: It's not very common to see a young English manager starting out abroad. When the time does come to become a manager in your own right, would you consider a job in MLS or in Europe, outside England?
Campbell: It's amazing. Jobs come in. There's India, there's China, there's MLS, there's Europe, but I'll probably look at more established areas in football for now. For me, that's mainland Europe. There's a bit of family, there's a bit of work as well, so I need to balance that out. I know sometimes the further afield you go, the more money you can earn, but then the further away you are from your family.
There is the work/life balance as well, but I totally understand that sometimes if you get an offer that's a really good offer, you have to seriously look at it because I want to get my career going, and I want to learn from Dennis being here as well ... and learn a different side of the game. Sometimes if you dive in too early, you can get burned, and you don't want that as a new, young manager. You want to earn your stripes, do the work, roll your sleeves up and do a good job. Experience comes with it.
ESPN FC: What kind of football would a Sol Campbell side play?
Campbell: I played in a very good Arsenal side, so for me, that's the type of football I want to be involved in. I want to be involved with guys who really care about the game, players on and off the field that are totally committed. Yes, everyone has fun as well, but I want guys that are really committed to the sport. I want youngsters that want to carve out a career. I want guys that are 30-plus and had an amazing career but are still hungry for success. That's the type of environment I want to be involved in. Playing-wise, I want guys who can attack, who can defend well. I want them to kick it to Row Z but also be able to be calm on the ball at the same time. I want complete players in all positions because you never know what is going to come at you in European football or domestic.