One of England’s greatest defensive stalwarts, Campbell – the only man to represent England at six consecutive international tournaments – said there was always room for youngsters to be blooded at major events, but that manager Roy Hodgson had gone too far with his 23-man squad for Brazil.
“Personally I think there are too many players who are a bit too young,” he said in an interview. “There are not enough of that middle group. It is a squad almost of young (players) and then a few 28-plus, 30, whatever… there is not that middle market which needs to be filled in.”
One of Hodgson’s more controversial choices was the selection of 18-year-old Southampton defender Luke Shaw in preference to Ashley Cole, capped 107 times by England and a former Arsenal defensive team mate of Campbell.
Campbell smiled and shook his head slowly.
“It is good to have a few youngsters, to allow them to feel what it is like at a big tournament because the pressure is immense.
“You get that first game and everyone is excited but then you get that second and that third game and the pressure really comes in, where the enormity of what you are trying to do kicks in.
“You have to be a really special kid to be able to handle that – and you need the experience around you to absorb that, and allow you to continue to be free and not to be inhibited by it.”
Along with Shaw, Hodgson has included 20-year-old Everton midfielder Ross Barkley, Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling, 19, Reds midfielder Jordan Henderson, 23, Manchester United defender Phil Jones, 22, Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 20, and Jack Wilshere, 22, in a relatively callow squad.
Hodgson came under fire this week from another of Campbell’s former defensive partners Tony Adams, when he said the England boss should have persuaded John Terry to come out of international retirement and link up with his Chelsea team mate Gary Cahill.
“I would definitely have taken Terry out to lunch and tried to convince him to come and play. He started 34 of the 38 Premier League games for Chelsea this year. Is he the best centre half in this country? I think he is,” Adams said.
“He is 33, not 36. I don’t know where Roy is going with this. If he thinks these guys can win it, I am not sure. I would have been talking to John six months ago,” he said, adding that Cole should also be going to Brazil.
But Campbell said on Friday that it was not so clear cut.
“Does he (Hodgson) want to break up what he has going for England just for one tournament? What if it goes wrong? Then people lose confidence and John Terry is not going to be there for the next three, four years-plus.
“I think if he’d said to John Terry ‘come along, these are my two guys but you come along and support’ that would have been better if he’d said that. Maybe he did and John Terry wanted to be first man, I’m not privy to what was said, if anything, and how it was said.”
Capped 73 times for his country, and having played under numerous regimes and five England managers, the 39-year-old offered some advice to Hodgson on how to get the best out of his players next month.
“Get the wives and girlfriends in at the beginning before the tournament starts while the practice games are going on and then that’s it, job done, see you later, you can watch the games,” he smiled.
“In the beginning it is good to get that bond, so for a week 10 days it is fine, I think the lads will be relaxed.
“But four to five days before the first game I think it should be all business.
“The first three games, just get through the group. You just need to get people into the mindset you are here to work, you are here to win the World Cup.”
(Editing by Justin Palmer)