Football: Campbell back in action for England

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The Independent Online
SOL CAMPBELL yesterday lifted a massive World Cup worry off Glenn Hoddle's shoulders when he trained for the first time in nearly a fortnight.

However, Campbell's Spurs team-mate Les Ferdinand, and Manchester United defender Gary Neville, were both on the missing list as Hoddle's squad made their public bow in France.

The Tottenham stopper Campbell had been a training ground absentee for 12 days since picking up the dead leg against Belgium in Morocco in England's final warm-up international before flying to France. While the problem was at first dismissed as nothing serious, the fact that Campbell had been forced onto the sidelines for so long a period would have been a concern for the England camp until yesterday, with their opening game against Tunisia just five days away.

The England coach's faith in the White Hart Lane man was shown in that Belgium game, as he made Campbell England's youngest captain in 35 years.

Campbell's qualifying performances in Poland and Italy showed why Hoddle considers him a key component in the side he believes is ready to claim some glory in the next five weeks. Yesterday, as England made their first open-access appearance on French soil - in front of the international media and 200 local youngsters - Campbell was back in training. The Spurs man did not play a full part in what was a relaxed and good-spirited session, working on his own under the gaze of the physiotherapist, Alan Smith.

But, after walking a couple of laps of the pitch at England's training base in this up-market Britanny resort town, the 23-year-old stepped up the pace. Running, ball-work, and some fairly vigorous fitness exercises followed, with Campbell looking ready to take a full part in today's planned session.

Whether Ferdinand and Neville will be able to do the same is less clear, and the England coach could have done without the knocks they have picked up in the last couple of days and which kept them out of action. Neville suffered a calf injury, which caused his 70th-minute substitution in England's behind-closed-doors game against the club side, Caen, on Tuesday.

Ferdinand missed out on the 1-0 win over Caen after damaging an achilles tendon, but England officials stressed that neither injury was viewed as serious.

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