Three days into his Newcastle career and Sol Campbell has had to defend himself against a small section of the Geordie fans. Labelled as ‘fat belly’ on a forum after a somewhat unflattering photo was published of the defender training, Campbell branded the fans involved as ‘pathetic’. Campbell was also honest however, in admitting that he wasn’t in prime condition:
“I am a naturally big guy, but I cannot rush my conditioning, otherwise trying too much too quickly could result in injuries. Of course I can understand the manager wants me to be in the side, but the season starts in just two weeks and I really need three to four weeks to get back to peak fitness.”
It is far too early to write Campbell off. There was a stage earlier in the summer where it appeared that the former England international seemed to have a straight-forward choice between another year at Arsenal or a move north of the border to Celtic. How concrete either offer was from each club is now irrelevant because by moving to St James’ Park he has a chance to get something he couldn’t have got from the other clubs: regular football at the highest standard.
Whether Campbell can play 40 games over the course of the season is unlikely, but Steven Taylor’s injury – out until November with a dislocated shoulder – means that Chris Hughton’s capture of Campbell is an even more shrewd bit of business. After Campbell’s (limited) time at Notts County, there was a serious concern about whether he would actually play again; the move itself was a surprise, and the way and speed in which he left only heightened the confusion. It is safe to say no one expected he’d be back at Arsenal come January, but considering the lack of football and conditioning, he made an impressive comeback and a valuable contribution at the Emirates. Campbell has been away on his honeymoon, his reasoning for the lack of fitness, and has vowed he’ll be back in shape. If he managed to do it with nearly five months out of the game, a matter of weeks should not be a concern to any wary fans.
What Newcastle have over most other newly promoted teams to the top flight is that their players have Premier League experience, a valuable commodity and one that Campbell will add to. Even in the Keegan era, when Newcastle were competing for the title, and measly and water-tight defensive unit was never the club’s forté, and having Campbell to orchestrate the defence will be a massive assurance to the players around him.
The decision to join Newcastle shows that Campbell is still ambitious, and confident in his ability that he can perform consistently at a high standard. The abuse he got I’m sure is not shared by the majority of Newcastle fans, and Campbell is no stranger to handling criticism: he will still be the target for Spurs fans, and it wasn’t long ago that he was the victim of homophobic chanting while playing at Portsmouth. By admitting that he is not as fit as he wants to be, Campbell has shown that he’s not trying to fool anyone, he is as aware as anyone that there is work to be done. The taunting regarding his fitness may have a little truth in it, but it’s a bit hasty and won’t help the situation, especially as it is towards a player that could potentially be a key figure in Newcastle’s season.
Read more of my articles and follow me on twitter.