Newcastle new boy Sol Campbell has branded criticism of his physical condition as "pathetic" and vowed he will be back to peak fitness "in three or four weeks".
The 35-year-old former England centre-back was labelled "fat belly" on Magpies' supporters' message boards after the publication of a less-than-flattering training photograph over the weekend. Campbell accepts he has work to do but claims his current state is no cause for concern.
"It's pathetic. I had been training for three days - just three days," Campbell told Soccernet.
"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 rejoined the Gunners in January this year having walked out on Notts County last September, and went on to make 11 Barclays Premier League appearances for the north London club in the second half of the 2009/10 season.
"I am a naturally big guy, but I cannot rush my conditioning, otherwise trying too much too quickly could result in injuries," added the former Tottenham and Portsmouth defender.
"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."
Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: http://gms.to/writeforgms