FRAIZER Campbell says hearing of his call-up for England yesterday was: “probably the best moment of my life.”
The 24-year-old has endured nearly 18 months of hell after suffering successive cruciate ligament injuries which cast huge doubt over whether he would ever play football at the highest level again.
The long-term injuries left many wondering whether he would ever again be able to play professional football, and question marks over what standard he’d be capable of even if he did return.
But the striker made a fairytale comeback when he scored on his return in the 1-1 draw against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup and followed that up with the opening goal in the next game as Norwich City were turned over 3-0.
And yesterday the heart-warming story was completed when news came through that England caretaker boss Stuart Pearce had called his former England Under 21 star into the senior squad to face Holland in a friendly at Wembley next week.
Campbell said: “It has gone from the worst point in my life, 18 months ago, to probably the best moment of my life.
“It has been a bit of a roller-coaster but it has been brilliant, the last month or so, playing games and being back involved.
“Every person at the club has come up to me and said: ‘Well done mate, it is well-deserved.”
“It makes it even more special. I had been out for a heck of a long time, so to come back and get this, I could not have written a better story.”
Campbell was aware that his progress had been monitored by Pearce – Sunderland physio Dave Galley also works with the Under 21s and had been keeping Pearce up to date with the striker’s return.
But Campbell says that he still had no inkling that yesterday’s honour was about to come his way: “It never entered my head,” he said.
“Martin O’Neill came up to me in training and said: ‘well, done’. I was like ‘er, cheers’!
“I was getting a lot of stick in training. Everyone was smashing the ball at me and saying: ‘come on, you’re an England international, what is that?’
“You have to expect it. It’s all fun and games.
“When you’re 10 years old, that’s what you think about, playing for your favourite club, or playing for your country.
“Every footballer in the league would be lying if they said they did not want to play for the national team. It is massive, brilliant.”
Campbell believes that the call-up proves he was right to leave Manchester United in search of more first-team football.
“It is incredible how things develop,” he said. “I always believe I had made the right decision anyway. At the time I left they had loads of world-class strikers there.
“I could see I was not going to get much of an opportunity. I needed to go and I still think it was a great decision.”