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Newcastle's Campbell angry over fitness critics

Sol Campbell has hit back at critics who have suggested that he is out of condition after a national newspaper printed a picture of the former England star which triggered message board comments about his "fat belly".

Campbell, who signed for Newcastle last week, is angry that he has been targeted for abuse before the season has even begun and asserted his intent to get himself into peak condition to prove his doubters wrong.

"It's pathetic,'' he told Soccernet. "I had been training for three days - just three days! I am three weeks behind everyone else in pre-season. Don't they know I have just got married and been on honeymoon?

"I accept that the picture wasn't flattering, and I do need to catch up on my level of fitness, but the training kit was not very flattering, and showed up all sorts of things.

"The truth is that I am now in better shape than when I started off back at Arsenal after a long lay-off. I got myself back into shape at Arsenal, and I think I had a reasonably good end-half of the season.''

Campbell knows that he cannot rush his progress and insists that he knows better than anyone when he will be ready to play for the first-team.

"I am a naturally big guy, but I cannot rush my conditioning, otherwise trying too much too quickly could result in injuries,'' he said. "Of course I can understand the manager wants me to be in the side, but the season starts in just two weeks and I really need three to four weeks to get back to peak fitness.

"I've seen it all before, done it all before, heard it all before, but that means I also know exactly what to do. It's a long season and I cannot listen to idiots. I know these things cannot be rushed. What I do know is that I will achieve peak fitness given the time I need to do it. It might be that I will need to play and then put in extra training in between games.

"My message is simple to all the knockers: I am knuckling down and want to play my football with a great club and a great manager. Then you can judge me."

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