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The England Blog - Sol Campbell to South Africa

Published: 25 Mar 2010 - 14:15:05

In the first of a new weekly feature, Chris Davie tackles the big issues surrounding England before this summer's World Cup in South Africa.

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If you had asked Sol Campbell seven months ago whether he was looking for a place in Fabio Capello's squad for the World Cup, even the 35-year-old would have dismissed the prospect - oh how times change.

Having signed for Notts County last August, Campbell looked destined to play the remainder of his time as a professional footballer in League Two. With all due respect, that's not the fairytale ending to a career spanning 18 years in the top flight, resulting in, amongst other accolades, two Premier League winners' medals, four FA Cup triumphs and a goal in a Champions League final.

Since moving back to Arsenal, Campbell's last hurrah has potentially given him the opportunity to shine on football's biggest stage one last time.

Arsene Wenger has been criticised for his reluctance to draw out his cheque book and sign marquee players, but the re-signing of Campbell appears to be one of the Frenchman's shrewdest moves to date. The centre-back has provided a series of sound displays as well as much-needed experience to an Arsenal side packed with bushy-tailed youthfulness.

Joleon Lescott, England's latest defensive casualty, may have paved the way for Campbell's return. The Manchester City centre-back is sidelined for a month after knee surgery, which, upon his return, will leave him in a race against time to find both match fitness and form.

Capello has a tendency to select players based on current performances rather than reputation, and although Lescott has been the better half of a newly-formed partnership with Kolo Toure, merit alone will not save him.

Barring any further mishaps, the England boss is likely to select Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Matthew Upson. Although all three have had their season blighted at some stage either by injury, poor form or media allegations - in some cases a combination of all three.

There is one final centre-back spot yet to be claimed, and Campbell, if he maintains his place in the Arsenal team and performs well, may find himself in the frame.

What could convince Capello, either to take or leave Campbell, may be Arsenal's next Champions League outing against Barcelona. The Catalan side have been in fine form recently - largely thanks to their talisman Lionel Messi. But with William Gallas injured, it's likely the veteran centre-back will partner Thomas Vermaelen in defence, for the first-leg at the Emirates at least.

If Campbell, along with his team-mates, manage to keep the Spanish bombardment at bay, it may leave the Italian with something to ponder before naming his 23-man squad.

Campbell faces tough competition for a place in the World Cup squad, and adding to the 73 caps he currently owns will be a difficult task. Phil Jagielka has put in a number of promising performances over the past month since returning from injury, however his last start in an England shirt, a friendly against Spain that lasted just 45 minutes, gave a less-than-convincing indication of how he copes at international level.

Another old head that could feature in Capello's plans this summer is Gary Neville. England's second-choice right-back Wes Brown is currently on the road to recovery after breaking his metatarsal, potentially leaving another vacant space in the England squad.

Neville is ending the season on a high with Manchester United and playing some part in this summer's proceedings does not look completely out of reach for the 35-year-old.

Like Campbell, Neville could bring a vast amount of experience to the England setup if called upon, and if Brown fails to get enough games after his recovery, Neville has shown he still has the fitness and the positional awareness to step into the right-back role for his country.

It's unlikely that both Campbell and Neville will travel to South Africa, but at the start of this campaign who would have predicted that either player would be in contention for a place in the squad come the end of the season?

If England pick up another defensive injury then we may see both selected by Capello. If that does happen, perhaps the first thing we should do is scrap our World Cup song and replace it with the Dad's Army theme tune.

It would definitely be more appropriate.

READ CHRIS DAVIE'S THOUGHTS ON ENGLAND EVERY THURSDAY EXCLUSIVELY AT FOOTBALL.CO.UK

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:Chris Davie
Chris hails from Maidstone, Kent, and has written on football for plenty of websites we won’t care to mention. He’s even banged out some boot reviews. A qualified level two FA coach, Chris follows Chelsea so don’t expect calls for Frank Lampard to be dropped in his England-focused blog. “I’m an England sceptic,” he says. “You won’t catch me with a St George’s cross painted on my face.” Read him every Thursday as England build-up to the World Cup finals in South Africa.

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