London - Sol Campbell has slammed the "pathetic" Newcastle fans who criticised his fitness after the former England defender was photographed looking overweight.
Campbell was described as a "fat belly" on Newcastle internet messageboards following the publication of the photo, which showed him in action on the training pitch.
The 35-year-old former Arsenal and Tottenham centre-back, who joined the Magpies on a free transfer last week, admits he is not as fit as his new team-mates at Newcastle, but he is confident of being in peak condition soon after the start of the Premier League season.
"It's pathetic," he told Soccernet. "I had been training for three days - just three days. 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."
Newcastle kick off their return to the Premier League at Manchester United on August 16 and Campbell admits he may not be fully fit by then because he doesn't want to risk injury by pushing too hard in training.
"I am a naturally big guy, but I cannot rush my conditioning, otherwise trying too much too quickly could result in injuries," he said.
"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.
"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."