Newcastle strike an early blow over their rivals

Newcastle United completed a huge coup over their bitter rivals Sunderland by winning the race to sign Sol Campbell from Arsenal. Campbell put pen to paper on a one year contract with the Magpies and will be looking to contribute right from the off as Newcastle look to re-establish themselves as a Premier League mainstay.

The signing of Sol Campbell by Chris Hughton looks to be a sensible one. Campbell turned in a number of impressive performances last season at the heart of Arsenal’s defence following injuries to William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen. In spite of his advancing years, Campbell has maintained many of the qualities that his reputation was built on. He still possesses a decent turn of pace along with an acute positional understanding which has served him so well in his career so far.

Campbell also brings vast experience to St. James’s Park, having played in every season of the Premier League since its inception and in a Champions League final where he also managed to score the only Arsenal goal in their defeat to Barcelona. With a relatively young squad, Campbell’s experience could prove to be a vital asset in helping the younger players adapt to the rigours of top flight football.

With talismanic Steven Taylor out of action for the foreseeable future, Hughton will be calling on Campbell to display some of the leadership skills that resulted in him being named Portsmouth captain and to help guide Newcastle in the absence of Taylor.

Reeling from Campbell’s snub, Sunderland manager Steve Bruce looked to his previous club Wigan to snap up the oft-derided figure of Titus Bramble. While Bramble doesn’t possess anywhere near the reputation of Campbell, his transfer could prove to be a shrewd piece of business by the Sunderland boss.

While playing for Ipswich, the then Newcastle manager Sir Bobby Robson identified a young Bramble as a potential star in the making and brought him to Newcastle. However, Bramble’s time at Newcastle was marred by a number of mistakes which were met with ridicule from fans and the media alike. Bramble’s errors were not mainly due to a lack of ability but rather a lack of concentration, which unluckily for Bramble usually cost the club dear.

Despite his error-prone reputation, Bramble has produced glimpses of his talent. Since moving from Newcastle to Wigan, Bramble has slowly managed to cut out most of the errors in his game, becoming a first-team regular under Steve Bruce during his time at the DW Stadium and more recently Roberto Martinez.

Bruce brought Bramble from Newcastle to Wigan and has first hand experience of what he can offer. In signing Bramble for Sunderland, he is placing a huge amount of confidence in a player that is not matched by public opinion. Sol Campbell seems to be a relatively safe bet to succeed at Newcastle. Titus Bramble however represents a huge gamble on the part of Steve Bruce.

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