FRAIZER Campbell admits it is up to him now to prove to Martin O’Neill he is still a Premier League force to be reckoned with.
The former Manchester United player had been the star of Sunderland’s pre-season in 2010 and started off the campaign looking as though he was about to fulfil his potential, only to suffer serious injury when he twisted awkwardly in a game against Manchester City in August.
He battled his way back from that injury, but, on the eve of a first-team comeback last April, injured the same knee again.
Now he has been back in full training for weeks, gradually stepping up his efforts to the point where Martin O’Neill admits he will come into contention for a place on the bench against Middlesbrough in tomorrow’s FA Cup fourth round tie.
For the pacy 24-year-old, it is a return he craves: “It’s up to me now to try to work my way back into the manager’s plans.
“I know I’ve got a long way to go yet, but the good thing is that I feel as though I’m getting closer to that with each passing week.
“Each game I’m involved in is a fitness builder.
“I won’t lie – I’m feeling shattered after games!
“But that’s natural, I was always that way after Premier League games too, so I’m not worried about it.
“At the moment, it’s a case of getting through a game, recovering from it the right way and then looking to the next match.”
Campbell played up front in the Reserves’ 1-0 win over Bolton Wanderers’ second-string at Eppleton CW in midweek in the latest stage of his rehabilitation and revealed: “I’ve had no reaction to the injury, just a bit of cramp now and again, so fingers crossed really.
“You’re bound to get niggles from time to time after being out for so long, so any of the small problems I’ve had I’ve not worried about unduly.”
When Campbell is able to cross the white line in a first-team game, he does not know,
However, he confesses it is all he’s thinking about.
“It’s very hard to gauge my fitness in terms of Premier League football because it’s so much of a higher level,” he said. “It’s so much more intense.
“I’ll just be guided by the experts – the medical staff who know their stuff and the managerial team, who know their’s.
“It’s going to be difficult to reach those levels but that’s the aim though – to slowly get back towards the first team and then push on a little stage further from one stage to the next.
“I’d love to think, though, that it won’t be too long now before I’m back again.”