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Sol reprieve for England

A damaged shoulder has forced Arsenal's Sol Campbell to withdraw from the England squad to face Croatia on Wednesday and that could be a reprieve for manager Sven Goran Eriksson as the increasingly hot headed defender has a chance to cool down following his latest club dismissal.

England's first choice centre-back has endured a torrid time of late, having been sent-off and banned for four games for elbowing Manchester United's Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, kicked out at Eric Djemba-Djemba in the Community Shield - resulting in a video investigation and an FA charge - and shown the red card on the opening day of the new season.

A similar rush of blood to the head from the 28-year-old defender in Wednesday's friendly at Portman Road would have resulted in his suspension for the first game of England's Euro 2004 qualifying double header against Macedonia and Liechtenstein in early September.

Those two games are crucial to England's hopes of travelling to Istanbul with the upper-hand as Group Seven leaders in a winner-takes-all clash with Turkey in October.

Campbell is an integral part of England's defence but his simmering anger at a self-perceived FA conspiracy against him appears to be contributing to his poor disciplinary record, which put his chances of starting in those qualifying games in jeopardy.

What at first seems to be a huge blow for the England defence, along with the withdrawal of Newcastle United defender Jonathan Woodgate, could actually be a boon as it gives Campbell the chance to temper his wayward ways.

The 6' 2" Londoner is still furious at the FA for his four match ban at the end of last season - which meant he missed the FA Cup final as well as the title run-in - when referee Mark Halsey reviewed video evidence of the Solksjaer incident and stood by his initial red card decision.

The Arsenal camp claimed Solskjaer had overreacted to Campbell's attempt to shield the ball from the striker and it was this reaction, and not the arm in the face, that got the defender sent off.

After a summer of reflecting on the FA's decision that had 'destroyed' him, Campbell returned to action with a retaliatory kick at Djemba-Djemba at the Millennium Stadium after the Cameroon international had left his foot trailing in a waste high challenge.

Despite being under video review for the incident, and facing a three-match ban for violent conduct, the Arsenal stopper tripped Everton's Thomas Gravesen in full flow on the edge of the penalty area - a dismissal that brought Arsenal's total under Wenger to 51 red cards.

The former Tottenham-player had an unblemished nine-year stint at White Hart Lane and has now been sent-off three times since joining Arsenal in 2001.

And while Campbell's withdrawal has spared Eriksson the task of soothing his fury before the Croatia clash, more importantly it gives the defender time for a little introspection to get mentally prepared for both the Gunners, for whom he could face a four game absence, and England.

Arsenal players surround the ref after Sol Campbell is sent off in May. Now you can see it on a DVD.
Arsenal players surround the ref after Sol Campbell is sent off in May. Now you can see it on a DVD.

Campbell's expected absence was confirmed by Eriksson at a press conference on Tuesday but the Swede had already drafted Birmingham's 24-year-old defender Matthew Upson into the England ranks as a replacement.

Upson, who has won only three caps, was called into the squad ahead of veteran defender Gareth Southgate but Eriksson dismissed suggestions that it was the end for the Boro defender's 55 cap England career.

'It's a friendly game and I know what Southgate can do,' Eriksson explained.

With Woodgate out Chelsea's John Terry, who won the Man-of-the-Match award in his side's 2-1 win over Liverpool at the weekend, will partner Rio Ferdinand in the centre of defence.

Bayern Munich midfielder Owen Hargreaves joins Woodgate and Campbell on the injury list but Emile Heskey and captain David Beckham have both recovered from knocks and are expected to start against Croatia.

Phil Neville will start ahead of Danny Mills, who blasted Leeds boss Peter Reid after being omitted from the their first game of the season, but Eriksson is expected to give most of his substitutes a chance.

However, when asked if supporters could expect the wholesale changes that have become synonymous with England friendlies the Swede replied 'absolutely not'.

Probable teams:

England: David James; Phil Neville, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole; Steven Gerrard, Nicky Butt, David Beckham, Paul Scholes; Michael Owen, Emile Heskey

Croatia: Stipe Pletikosa; Dario Simic, Robert Kovac, Josip Simunic, Boris Zivkovic; Igor Tudor, Jerko Leko, Niko Kovac, Marko Babic; Ivica Olic, Marijo Maric

  • If you have any thoughts you can email Dominic Raynor.