Thursday, 12 July 2007

The Strife And Crimes Of Craig Bellamy

Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.
In My Craft Or Sullen Art (1952)
To say I’m conflicted about writing this post is a mild understatement. I disliked Craig Bellamy for his entire career before this summer and will surely dislike him again, from the moment he is unceremoniously moved on from the club, probably after taking a drunken swing with a nine-iron at some hapless 'scrubber' outside Faces, while he furiously texts taunting messages to Alan Shearer about some grudge neither of them can quite let go. In the meantime, while Bellamy wears the sacred crossed hammers on his chest, all past indiscretions shall be swept aside, explained away, subjugated by spurious reasoning; like Bellamy is actually an 'interesting' character', as Russell Brand contends, a man possessing the incendiary temperament of a poet- a dilettante Thomas. Or like Paul MacInnes posits,
a political animal who's actions articulate the fact that defiance is at the very heart of his being.

What follows is the life and times of Craig Bellamy's footballing life, reproduced here in needlessly salacious detail. The unsavoury indiscretions that pockmark this tale should be treated as mere bagatelle. As Paul Abbandonato wrote: "I won’t pass judgement on Craig Bellamy’s so-called off-the-field antics, because most of us simply don’t know how much of the innuendo is true, and how much of it is way wide of the mark. However, what I do know for certain is that Bellamy is a very fine footballer, who scores goals, creates them by the bucket- load and brings a dynamism, buzz, verve and passion to any team he plays for." When Bellamy starred for Newcastle between 2002-2004, they finished 4th, 3rd and 5th in the Premiership respectively. As a result, they had some fantastic moments in the Champions League, Bellamy often being a shining force. He became an idol to many in Scotland by scoring goals galore and helping Celtic clinch the Scottish Cup. Celtic were desperate to keep Bellamy but he joined old Wales colleague Mark Hughes at Blackburn and his goals took the club into the UEFA Cup. Bellamy left Blackburn to join Liverpool. It wasn’t quite the season he expected at Anfield, but he was inspirational in helping take the Reds to the Champions League Final. Bellamy scored one goal, and created the winner in a historic 2-1 win over tournament favourites Barcelona at the Nou Camp.
I hold a beast, an angel and a madman in me, and my enquiry is as to their working, and my problem is their subjugation and victory, downthrow and upheaval, and my effort is their self-expression~ Dylan Thomas
Craig Douglas Bellamy (born 13 July 1979 in Canton, Cardiff) had an unsuccessful spell at Bradford Park Avenue and a trial at Bradford City before leaving home as a teenager to begin his career with Norwich City. His first team debut for the Canaries was at Crystal Palace on 15 March 1997 and he became a first team regular the following season, making 38 appearances and bagging 13 goals. After a further two injury-hit seasons in which the youngster managed to add another 20 goals, Bellamy was reportedly garnering attention from a plethora of top-flight clubs, with Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and Celtic all showing an interest.

In the summer of 2000, Bellamy earned a £6.5million move to Coventry City in a deal financed by Robbie Keane’s transfer to Inter Milan. Bellamy had expressed an interest to move on from Norwich, rejecting a new improved contract, and was keen to join Gordon Strachan. With the future of the existing transfer system in question, Norwich's board were keen to grab a club record fee to alleviate their debts. At the age of just 21 Bellamy glided into the first team dressing room and informed his new colleagues he was now the best player at their club. Despite his early 'confidence', the Welshman had an unsuccessful start to his career at Highfield Road, scoring only three goals by December, two of which were penalties. There were various rumours of a return to Norwich City, but it never materialized, and Coventry City faced up to relegation that year with Bellamy declaring himself unwilling to drop down a division. Despite his inability to find the net in a Sky Blue shirt, notching up six goals in 34 appearances, there was still demand for Bellamy’s services and in June 2001 Newcastle United manager Bobby Robson swooped to sign him for £6million.

The Welshman’s career got off to a flying start on Tyneside as he scored on his debut in a 4-0 win over Belgian side Lokeren. Under manager Robson, Bellamy formed a productive striking partnership with Toon idol Alan Shearer- Bellamy's pace complementing the former England captain's guile. He scored 16 goals and helped the Magpies qualify for the Champions League. Bellamy crowned his first season by scooping the PFA Young Player of the Year award, pipping such luminaries as Steven Gerrard. During his second season at 'the Toon' came probably his most important moment for the club as he scored two goals (including the winner) in the 3-2 victory over Feyenoord, which took Newcastle through to the second group stage of the UEFA Champions League. Unfortunately, in the next match (a 4-1 defeat to Inter Milan) he was sent off for kicking out at an Inter defender Marco Materazzi, which resulted in a three-match ban. Presumably the Welsh react just as badly to insults about their sister as the French do. In February Bellamy was handed a record- breaking £100,000 club fine for receiving a police caution over an assault on young Newcastle University student Charlotte Smith. The incident came just three months after being sent home from a club trip to southern Spain when, rather than attend a dinner held in honour of former Newcastle supremo Sir John Hall, he went with team-mates "to a local bar for a meal and a few quiet drinks". The following March the Welsh firebrand threw a chair at then-first-team coach John Carver during a row over a car parking space at Newcastle Airport, and then in 2003 he was acquitted of racially-aggravated harassment after an incident outside a Cardiff nightclub.

After Bobby Robson's departure in August 2004, Bellamy had a very public falling-out with his replacement as Newcastle manager, Graeme Souness. On 23 January 2005 the striker was omitted from the team for a Premiership match with Arsenal. Before the match, Souness said that Bellamy had a hamstring problem, but contradicted himself in a post-match interview, claiming that Bellamy was benched for being unwilling to play as a right-sided midfielder. One paper said at the time that the striker had unleashed “a stream of consciousness about his disaffection at playing on the wing” when questioned by Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd. Minutes later, Bellamy gave an interview of his own saying that he was prepared to play in any position. He admitted that he had threatened to fake injury ahead of the Arsenal match, and in a later interview accused Souness of lying about him. Two days after the match, the club fined Bellamy two weeks' wages (about £80,000) and Souness was possibly overheard saying: "If that Welsh fucker ever thinks he's playing for me again, I'll bust his bollocks in a dark alley...". Not before allegedly grabbing Bellamy by the throat and dragging him into the empty Newcastle training-ground gym for a 'chat' first though.

On 31 January 2005 (transfer deadline day) Bellamy was sent on loan to Celtic for the remainder of the season, scoring seven league goals in just 12 appearances. He was part of the squad that went onto win the Scottish Cup, his first career trophy. The Bhoys were keen to sign him permanently, and despite subsequently shunning a move to Birmingham City- texting Souness and chairman Freddy Shepherd with the message: 'I am Craig Bellamy and I don't sign for shit football clubs'- it was announced that he was to return to the Premiership with Blackburn Rovers for a transfer fee rumoured to be between £2.5 million and £5 million. He signed a four year contract and was reunited with former Wales manager Mark Hughes. Bellamy again proved his Premiership class, netting seventeen goals for Blackburn (including two terrific efforts against Portsmouth) in a highly successful but injury-tempered season. Bellamy's rejuvenation sparked renewed interest in him from a handful of top teams, although old club Newcastle United were definitely not among them. "People who have been here for 40 years had begged me not to let him back," said Newcastle United assistant manager Terry McDermott. "I've never come across so much hatred and unrest over one person - what I've learned about him has astonished me."

The player made himself further unwelcome at St James' Park when some abusive text messages were sent from his phone to club captain Alan Shearer after Newcastle's FA Cup semi-final defeat by Manchester United that year. The messages informed 'Big Al' that he was ‘past it’ and that ‘his legs had gone’, among the more printable moments of that particular SMS. Shearer was with the Newcastle squad in Republic of Ireland for Jackie McNamara’s testimonial golf day. Bellamy's agent has insisted his mobile had been lost at the time and he was not responsible for the texts. Kenneth Shepherd, son of Newcastle chairman Freddy, also received gloating text messages. Shearer is alleged to have threatened to "knock his block off" if Craig Bellamy ever returned to Tyneside, while Freddy Shepherd promised to "chin him" if their paths ever crossed again. The feud with Newcastle United resurfaced in September of the following season after Liverpool's victory over the Magpies. Assistant Manager Terry McDermott branded Bellamy, now a Liverpool player, a "little upstart" after he was said to have interrupted a conversation McDermott was having with referee Mark Halsey after the match had finished. "It had nothing to do with anyone else and I take exception to little upstarts like him," McDermott fumed. "He was 100 per cent out of order. Everywhere he has been he has been in bother and it is starting again at Liverpool". McDermott also revealed that Bellamy was hated at Newcastle.

Bellamy was the subject of a transfer bid from FA Cup winners Liverpool in June 2006, after Reds manager Rafael Benitez triggered a £6.5million clause in the player’s contract and Blackburn were obliged to allow him permission to talk to the club. Benitez stated that Bellamy "has the ability, the pace and the talent we've been looking for", and that he expected talks to go well, particularly as Bellamy is known to have supported Liverpool in his youth. He signed for the club on 23 June and officially became a Liverpool player on July 1, 2006. Bellamy got off to a slow start for Liverpool. Despite an impressive pre-season and scoring on his debut against Maccabi Haifa, Bellamy struggled for Premiership goals, eventually scoring his first against former club Blackburn Rovers. Bellamy finally made an impact against Wigan Athletic, inspiring Liverpool to a 4-0 victory with two goals and one assist. It was his first game after being cleared of assaulting a woman in a Cardiff bar. The troubled Welshman went on trial and was eventually proved not guilty. Bellamy claimed in court that he himself had been assaulted when one of the women bringing charges against him slapped his face. Sophie Palmer, who was 19, claimed Bellamy grabbed her around the throat and held her against a wall after they exchanged heated words in a corridor at the club. Holly Smith, who was 18, accused him of grabbing her by the wrist. Bellamy's defence said he was walking along the corridor when he caught Miss Palmer's eye and she asked what he was looking at. He said he replied: "Not you. If I was looking at anyone it would be those two girls over there. They're far prettier than you." Bellamy said that is was then that Miss Palmer responded by slapping him across the face. Three scumbags and one row in a shite nightclub then basically.

In February 2007 it was alleged that Bellamy attacked team mate John Arne Riise with a golf club during a team training session in Portugal. Both players were fined two weeks pay by the team and the incident earned Bellamy the nickname "The Nutter with the Putter". Manager Benitez accepted the players' apology and in the first match following the incident, away at Barcelona, Bellamy celebrated his 1-1 equalizer, after Deco had headed Barca into the lead, by emulating a golf stroke. What was even more remarkable is that he set up the winner in that match, assisting none other than Riise.

Bellamy announced to football programme Wales on Saturday on 28 April 2007 that he would leave Anfield in the summer transfer window and was linked at the time to Aston Villa, AS Roma and Juventus. Newcastle United were also mentioned in dispatches and it was enough to drive old nemesis Alan Shearer to drink. "I was having a few days away in France with Gary Speed and Steve Harper and the wives and I picked up a newspaper. I was having a fantastic day. But when I read Bellamy for Newcastle, I thought I would have to have another drink, so I had several." Bellamy's given reasons were lack of communication with Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez and conflicting opinions on how he should be utilised in a match. The next day, Craig angrily dismissed this story on the club's official website. He was disappointed that he had to deal with this issue while preparing for such a big match as the Champions League semi-final against Chelsea. Bellamy reassured the fans that he was 100% committed to the club and even stated that Benítez was the manager he has admired most during his career. Liverpool went on to win the semi-final, and while at the sidelines, Craig could be seen talking to his manager and their relationship seemed fine. He was however, left on the bench as an unused substitute in the 2007 UEFA Champions League Final 2007 as Liverpool lost 2-1 to A.C. Milan. Bellamy managed nine goals in 27 appearances for the Reds.

Bellamy holds the record as Wales' youngest Under-21 international gaining his first U21 cap against San Marino at the age of 16. He was also Wales' fifth youngest cap for the full team when he made his senior international debut for Wales during the 1997-98 season, playing in a friendly game against Jamaica at the age of 18. Two years later Bellamy became the first Wales player to be sent off in five years. He has so far earned 45 caps for his country, scoring 13 goals. In October 2006, Bellamy was awarded the captain's armband by Welsh manager John Toshack when Ryan Giggs was unavailable through injury for the Euro 2008 qualifier against Slovakia. It was a shock decision given the fact the player was due in court that week to face yet more assault charges. At the end of last season, following the retirement of Giggs from international football, the striker was confirmed as the country's new captain on a permanent basis, and will now look forward to joining his national team colleagues Danny Gabbidon and James Collins at Upton Park.


Anonymous said...

You state: "He became an idol in Scotland by scoring goals galore and helping Celtic clinch the League".

In fact, Celtic lost the league on the last day of the season when they were beaten 2 - 1 by motherwell. Many Celtic supporters blamed Bellamy for his wasteful and selfish attitude.

Trilby said...

Apologies, you are right. I have amended it to say 'Scottish Cup', which is what I intended to write in the first place (see further down the post!). As for the reaction of the Celtic supporters, I can only say what I have read in various sources; all of which have been very positive about Bellamy's time in Scotland. There are also the effusive quotes about him from Martin O'Neill, who incidentally was very interested in resigning the player.

Lux said...

I'm puzzled why a player like Craig Bellamy hasn't settled with a club.
He can score goals and has bucket loads of pace.
Like Robbie Keane a few years ago, Bellamy needs a team where there are currently no strikers(or decent ones) already at the club he's joining to get a place in the team.

Ben said...

Lux - looks like signing for WHU is his dream move, eh?
I have too many memories of his ordinary performances for the Sky Blues to have anytime for him. He is always good comedy value though.

speakeroftruth said...

The fun bit will be when he gets curbs in a headlock on the training ground.

From what I recall of Bobby Robson talking of Bellamy, he is actually a player who demands a lot of the things you'd hope a player does, better training, better competitive spirit and with that a lot of moaning

Having worked under competitive and super tactician in the shape of M. Hughes at Blackburn and Uncle Rafa, Curbs bibs and cones training routine will really get the sparks flying.

I put my money on Bellamy as player manager at west ham before the end of the season. On twice the current wage before being offered twice the doubled wage to leave.

Clearing the decks for a multi million pound move for franny jeffers and Kevin Lisbie.

Ribs said...

He's a decent player who should really have stayed at Newcastle, being as Souness was moved on shortly after he left anyway. Yes he comas across as a bit of a nasty character but then he's not there to be a lovely boy, he's there to play football. Anyway, I've never met him so can't pass comment on his character as it would merely be based on tabloid rumour. Decent signing for West Ham if you ask me.

Digby said...

Actually he is a talented player. When ever I've saw him for Celtic looked well above the rest of the team. That might be a reflection on SPL.. Also on-the-box looked like a player for Blackburn and (as a road runner striker) for Newcastle.

His weakness is the mentality, and with pressure cracks to the underlying welsh moaning shorty that he really is, ;-).

Shame he never did much (or settle) for Benetiz/Liverpool (apart from Barcelona), but then not many strikers do much (or enough) for Mr. Benetiz to allow them to settle.

EH, Tony said...

Gordon Strachan said when he had Craig at Coventry that he's never met anyone who swore more than Bellamy. One angry man.

He's got some talent though. I saw him playing for Blackburn at Portsmouth in Aug 2006. He only saw the ball twice and he scored 2 cracking goals. Have a look.

Angsty said...

I have to say that I thought this was a funny and well written piece - I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Oxford Don said...

Bellamy is a goalscorer and a talented player. At Newcastle, he was wasted on the right wing and moved away partly because of that.

At Celtic and Blackburn, he was a big fish in a small pond and lead the line very well indeed.

At bigger clubs, he can't stand not being Number One, and gets angry.

Why pick on him? Because a horrid little hunchback.

ontheline said...

Bellemy basically is a naïve.

Never consider he is anything worse than rest of people in this planet. He is just unable to learn from his mistakes, he still does not know where he has gone wrong; otherwise things would not always turn out like this, again and again. Even he had realised what was his problem, he could still have had difficulties to change himself overnight, poor soul.

Wish Bellemy luck!

chariots said...

I worry about his advisors, his friends, his entourage and even his ego.
I'll never forget a TV interview when things were going pear-shaped for him at Newcastle when he defended himself by saying, and I quote, "...people tell me I'm the best player at the club..."
I wonder, is the whispering in his darling little ear real or imaginary ?

Miko said...

Bellamy naive? I once heard him direct the most foul and abusive language at Bobby Robson when the manager (and one of the best coaches of his time) criticised him from the dug out during a Premiership game. Bobby later told us at a club dinner what he had to endure and it was clear that his view of the Welsh Wizard was up there with the other worms destroying the club. Souness was an utter disaster but at least he got rid of the most pointlessly agressive and petty minded footballer in the UK.

Jake said...

I'm a Celtic fan and Season Ticket holder, and had the pleasure of watching Craig Bellamy for 5 months at Celtic.

In his first game, he almost got into a fight with the opposing captain (Gary Caldwell - Hibs), had a water bottle thrown at him by Hibs fans and spent 5 minutes berating the ref at the end because they missed a professional foul on him when he, Caldwell and the Hibs goalie were the only players in the HIbs half at the time (doh! Mr Ref).

Shortly after in his first Old Firm game, he celebrated a wonder strike by kneeling at the Ibrox corner flag and bowing his head in prayer.
It was alleged by the ref (who booked him) and the police (who wanted to knick him) that he had crossed himself, but TV footage showed that his hands never left his sides and the ref was forced into an embarrassing climbdown (about a genuine mistake - "that was my interpretation of Mr Bellamy's actions.......").

Yep, Bellamy is a psycho. Totally in a world of his own; where he is the greatest player ever and everyone else is just out to hold him back.
But he is also a classy player, who never failed to offer anything other than a committed, professional performance. He also scored some belters.

And as far as I can tell, the only people who really had issues with him was Graeme Souness and Terry McDermot.
Souness was rumbled for telling complete lies about Bellamy and Terry McD has spent decades brown-nosing Souness!!

I think it more likely that Bellamy is a bit highly strung with a nasty streak (no real harm in that), and that Souness is just a "w@nk" to use the native Scottish nickname for him!!

Matt said...

Craig Bellamy is registered as a professional footballer, whos registeration shows he is contracted to West Ham football club. He has recently left Liverpool FC to join them in a 7.5 million pound deal. Craig has no previous convictions on his criminal record.

This is the truth about Craig Bellamy.

Everything else is hearsay. As the writer mentioned-"i need facts dammit" - there is no evidence that he is anything but what has been mentioned in the above responses or indeed the article itself.

What i had hoped to read about was that perhaps Craig wasnt be used to his potential at Liverpool, and what was it about Blackburn that helped him succeed. What i wanted to read was how should West Ham best utilise Bellamy if they hope to get the same ammount of goals from him. Was it that Liverpool didnt have a settled left midfielder that prevented him from forming an understanding of the player - increasing the potential for goals - such as with Gamst Pedersen at Blackburn? Was it that he played more games at home than away which meant there was no space for him to run into - utilising his speed. Or maybe he will always be better at a lesser team because they are treated with less respect and thus give him more space to use.

Trent said...

Ok Bellamy has a horrendous personality BUT at Newcastle he was adored by the fans for the astonishing levels of energy and commitment he put into games.

Robson may have been exasperated by him but he was THE major catalyst in reviving Shearer and a very ordinary team. That SBR tolerated him says a lot for his ability.

It may sound crazy but I differentiate between goalscorers and attackers with Bellamy clearly the latter. He is effectively a second striker whose efforvescent endeavours pull defences apart at the seams for his partners to exploit. He is unrivalled at working what Big Ron called the "Corridor of uncertainty" in the channels between fullback and centre half. I wonder hiow may defenders like playing against him.

Yes he's by all accounts a despicable character but to his value on the pitch is in my mind beyond question.

Don't get me started on Sourmess and his managerial capability - the man is an utter joke (worse than Roede


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