Campbell silent on hooligan threat to England's progress

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The Independent Football

Sol Campbell was not biting. Given two opportunities to send a message to England fans urging them to behave themselves he kept his own counsel. The initial request came from Portuguese television, inspired by reports of 200 people, predominantly English males, fighting with police in Albufeira, the Algrave's equivalent of Benidorm, late Monday night.

Sol Campbell was not biting. Given two opportunities to send a message to England fans urging them to behave themselves he kept his own counsel. The initial request came from Portuguese television, inspired by reports of 200 people, predominantly English males, fighting with police in Albufeira, the Algrave's equivalent of Benidorm, late Monday night.

The trouble may have been exacerbated by the presence of England fans but was hardly unique for a summer's night in Albufeira, football tournament or no football tournament. The England fans who attended Sunday's match, and are based around Lisbon, have generally been well-behaved so far. However, as was pointed out to Campbell, the incident did raise the spectre of Uefa acting on their threat to expel England from the competition. As was pointed out in a later briefing with English newspapers, all his and his team-mates' hard work to qualify would then be in vain. Why not add his voice?

"We're players, we're not politicians," said Campbell. "There are people all over the world doing things which politicians and presidents have asked them not to and people go on doing them. We're here to play football, to win a tournament. There are other people in other positions to take care of that."

Though past appeals by Sven Goran Eriksson and David Beckham contradict this argument, to some extent now England are in the competition Campbell's policy is the only way. England's players can only worry about events they can directly influence and any supporter who has not accepted the possible consequences of hooliganism by now is unlikely to be swayed at this late stage.

Their attention, therefore, is on tomorrow's match against Switzerland and producing the right reaction to Sunday's shattering defeat to France. "It is all about the response and we have to respond quickly," said Campbell. "We were down after the game but we have to pick ourselves up very quickly.

"It was a shock. Sometimes you think to yourselves 'how did it happen?' But we played well. We just need to get the run of the green. If [Beckham's] penalty goes in, [Zidane's] free-kick hits the post, the result is different. Sometimes it depends on those moments."

At 29 Campbell is aware that he is one of those players whose remaining opportunities for international success are limited. In domestic football he was able to change clubs to pursue honours and was single-minded enough to do so despite knowing he would attract virulent criticism. In the International game he must rely on winning with England.

"As time goes by you realise your chances of winning something special at this level are falling away," said Campbell who is at his fifth successive tournament. "For me there is probably just the World Cup and a European Championship after that. That applies to a lot of the lads and we want to win something.

"We're good enough. We were real close to beating the French and they've been turning good sides over for years. We've lost but it's woken us up. It showed us how important it is to look after whatever situation you are in, how quickly it can change. We're positive. There is a hunger to win. There are enough guys here who have been in this situation before to realise it is important to bring ourselves up and go on."

England have never won their first game in the European Championship finals. Nor have they qualified for the knock-out stages after losing it. However, in 1986 they lost their first World Cup match, 1-0 to Portugal. In the next they were held to a draw by Morocco and lost the captain, Bryan Robson, with a shoulder injury, and midfield partner, Ray Wilkins, to suspension. Yet they still qualified for the knock-out stage as they did in the 1962 World Cup when they lost the opening game to Hungary.

Back to the modern age and the England players were forced to sit through a video of the France game on Monday night. It still had the same ending. "It wasn't happy viewing," said David James. "The frustration was we played very well for 90 minutes - I know you have heard that a million times - but there are a lot of positives to take from the game. The last three minutes were hard to take but now we have got to get on with Thursday.

"After the game the changing room was a very glum place. Yesterday people had time to collect their thoughts and it was a much more positive."

The final word on the supporters went to James: "They were superb. They really, really were. Watching the video and seeing the fans afterwards I was gutted for them but hopefully they are as positive as we are. Two victories and we're through."

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