FRAIZER CAMPBELL will not rush back from injury after a miserable 17 months on the sidelines at Sunderland.
The Huddersfield-born 24-year-old has been out of action since August 2010 after suffering a second knee injury as he prepared to return to action after an initial lengthy lay-off with cruciate ligament damage.
Following a series of practice matches, Campbell, who played junior football for Stile Common before joining his first club Manchester United, played and scored for the Wearsiders’ reserves last week.
And while he is nearing the point where he can be considered for selection by Sunderland chief Martin O’Neill, the former Huddersfield Grammar School pupil is determined not to risk his recovery by rushing things.
"It’s always good to get a goal, but the most important thing is making sure the knee is all right," said the man who moved from Old Trafford for £3.5m in July 2009 but has been limited to 27 starts, 13 substitute appearances and seven goals.
"I have been training for a while and the big thing is that these things take time. As much as I want to be back playing, I know everyone’s got to be talking to each other to make sure the knee is sound.
"I’m almost having to hold myself back. This is one of the worst parts – those final few weeks just seem to drag, but I know I have to take it steady."
Having come so near to a return in April last year, Campbell is not prepared to leave anything to chance after being forced to write off such a large proportion of the last two years of his career.
He said: "The training-ground matches have helped me, I haven’t felt sluggish or anything.
"But rushing things results in niggles. When I come back I want to be at my best, I don’t want to be half-hearted."
When he does return to the senior scene, Campbell will do so to a squad which has been revitalised by the arrival of new manager O’Neill.
The Black Cats, 12th in the top flight, were unfortunate not to return from Chelsea with something to show for their efforts at the weekend as they slipped to just their second defeat in the Ulsterman’s eight games to date.
Campbell said: "It’s brilliant being around the place. We have had a great run of form and the lads are playing really well, so there’s a buzz.
"A lot of football is confidence and if you’re winning games, it makes you feel like a different person.
"I’m desperate to be a part of it. We’re full of confidence week in, week out and it’s spreading."
Sunderland returned from London, however, with a fresh injury headache after Matt Kilgallon left the field on a stretcher with an ankle problem to join fellow central defenders Titus Bramble and Wes Brown on the casualty list.
Next up is a home clash with Swansea on Saturday.
CAMERON JEROME has his eyes on another Wembley win – if he can force his way into the Stoke side.
The Huddersfield-born 25-year-old striker has had to be patient since switching from Birmingham in a £4m summer move to the Potteries.
The man who came off the bench as Brum beat Arsenal in last season’s Carling Cup final featured with a goal as Stoke overcame Gillingham 3-1 in the third round of the FA Cup.
But he was an unused substitute as Tony Pulis’s eighth-placed side held Liverpool goalless at Anfield.
It’s West Brom at home in the league on Saturday, with the cup fourth-round trip to Derby coming seven days after that.
"The manager’s rotating a bit," said Jerome, who is competing with Peter Crouch, Jon Walters, Kenwyne Jones and Ricardo Fuller for a starting spot.
"You have to take your opportunity when you get it. I would like to play every game but I know that’s not possible."
Jerome, who played his junior football for Westend and Stile Common, has made 10 starts and six substitute appearances for Stoke, scoring four goals.
The former Middlesbrough and Cardiff player whose dad Hanson played for the original Emley, is desperate to add to that tally, and would love to play in another cup final.
"It was the biggest thing in my career so far," said the man who has notched two of his Stoke goals in the Europa League.
"No-one gave us a chance before the game, but we were quietly confident that we could pull off a shock.
"It was something I will cherish for the rest of my life.
"Stoke had great success in the FA Cup last season and only lost narrowly to Manchester City in the final, so it is something we can maybe progress in this year as well."