Arsenal's Campbell targets England return

Arsenal centre-back Sol Campbell is targeting an England return after marking his Premiership comeback with both goals in a 2-0 victory against Everton on Monday night.

“I want to be in,” he said. “One of my main goals is to play for England, but also Arsenal.
That’s why I’ve been working hard, and I’m getting better and better.”

Campbell has missed much of the last year with a persistent Achilles-tendon problem, and has seen Chelsea’s John Terry replace him as Rio Ferdinand’s partner with the national team.

He has spoken regularly in that time of how mentally difficult he has found his rehabilitation, and his relief was obvious as he celebrated heading home Jose Antonio Reyes’s free kick after 11 minutes by sliding on his knees.

“It’s been a long time,” Campbell said. “It’s great to be back. There was a lot of frustration last season, so just being out there was good.”

He added a second from another Reyes free kick on the half-hour.

His manager, Arsene Wenger, admitted he had rushed his captain back ahead of schedule, worried by the cumulative impact of being without Campbell as well as Thierry Henry, who has a groin injury and will be out for another month, and Patrick Vieira, who was sold to Juventus in the summer.

“Campbell is a leader,” Wenger said. “And I was worried about losing that weight of experience from the team.”

Wenger also paid tribute to his captain’s determination to return.

“He’s a competitor,” he explained, “And when you’re that competitive, it affects you mentally. You practise and practise and practise and if you’re not getting the competition, at some stage you start to wonder how good you are.

“His desire and hunger to come back are good news for Arsenal, and good news for England as well. He’s a proud man and when his pride is touched, his competitiveness becomes very sharp.”

Assuming Campbell suffers no ill effects, he is almost certain to be included in the England squad for the crucial World Cup qualifiers against Austria and Poland next month.

“He has experience, physical potential and pace that nobody else has,” Wenger went on. “He has the ingredients that altogether give [the England manager] Sven[-Goran Eriksson] something to consider.”

Campbell’s confidence is returning, and, after the defeat at Middlesbrough last week, so too is Arsenal’s.

“Footballers are allergic to a lack of confidence,” Wenger said. “When we lost to Middlesbrough, we had lost two out of fur this season, and that was a shock for the players. We won against Thun [in the Champions League on Wednesday] straightaway, and there was a bit of a difference today.”

Everton, by contrast, have seen their morale sink and sink. Defeat at Highbury was their seventh in eight games this season, and they now lie second from bottom in the Premiership.

Manager David Moyes, though, was determined to look on the bright side, despite admitting that he had essentially resorted to damage limitation.

“We’ve come here before and been opened up, and we stopped that tonight,” he said. “So we’ve got to take a positive from that. Winning is a habit and so is losing, and we have to get out of that.

“We’re not happy with the two goals we conceded. You could call the two towering headers, but we should have blocked him off earlier.”—AFP

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