Craig Bellamy is something of a Jekyll and Hyde character. As exciting, successful and memorable as his career on the pitch as been, his off-field antics have led to just an many headline grabbing moments off the pitch.
But, with a character like Bellamy, a man with an undoubtedly spiky character, it is exactly that character that has led him to the extremely high level that he achieved in the game of football; coming through the ranks at Norwich City (after a short schoolboy spell at Bristol Rovers) I feel certain there were many footballers at the same talent level who didn’t make the grade. Bellamy however did make the grade, through his dogged, determined and at times uncompromising attitude. A proud Welshman through and through, Bellamy is true Welsh dragon.
Lasting from 1996 through to 2013, Bellamy spent almost the entirety of his career at the top level, the Premier League (13 full seasons), accompanies by short spells in the Scottish Premier League and the English Championship. Playing and scoring for 9 different clubs, Bellamy’s quality is confirmed by the stature of the clubs he played for which includes Liverpool, Celtic, Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City. Spells at Norwich City, Coventry City, Newcastle United, West Ham and Cardiff City should not be taken lightly, either!
Interestingly, despite his often-mentioned controversial personality – which saw more than a few rows in his time (more on those later!) – he returned to two clubs, having two separate spells each at Liverpool and Cardiff City. So, he couldn’t have been that bad a personality, could he?
Accruing a goals to games ratio of 1 every 3 games when competing at the highest level of the sport is impressive by anyone’s standard. Craig Bellamy should reflect on his 135 goals in 455 top level appearances with immense pride.
At International level, Bellamy managed to make a similar impact to club level. Whilst the goals to games ratio of 1 in 4 wasn’t quite as impressive, his 19 goals in 78 appearances for the Welsh Dragons leaves him sixth on the all-time Welsh goal scorers list, only behind legends including as Gareth Bale, Ian Rush and Dean Saunders.
Aside from goal scoring exploits, Bellamy captained the Welsh side proudly from 2006 to 2008, under the tutelage of John Toshack. Whilst seen as a a divisive figure in some quarters, Bellamy relished the captaincy role and led by example (and vocal encouragement!) to drive the side forward and reward the faith shown in him by Toshack.
Craig Bellamy also has the distinction of achieving something rare at International Level; he was one of the three over age player selected to compete for Great Britain in 2012 Olympics in London. Bellamy continued to demonstrate the quality he has always shown; scoring the first goal for a Great Britain football team at an Olympic Games since 1960, whilst also captaining the side at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, his home town, in a successful quarter final win.
Cap that off with an English League Cup win (2012), Scottish League Cup win (2005), PFA Young Player of the Year Award (2002) and Welsh Player of the Year Award (2007) and you have all the ingredients of an incredibly successful career.
The other side
So, we have a divisive, controversial figure, but so far, all we’ve heard is the good stuff. Now, get set for the other side in Bellamy, the ruthless and aggressive streak that has made him as read about in the red top tabloids for non-sporting reasons as well as footballing reasons!
Where to start? Well, perhaps the on-pitch stuff. In 2007, whilst at Liverpool, in preparation for an important European match with Barcelona, Bellamy’s dissatisfaction at John Arne Riise’s lack of involvement in an initiation ceremony didn’t go down well, to say the least….Bellamy confronted him holding a golf club as a weapon!
In 2009 Bellamy clashed with a pitch invader…..which was much to the amusement of the crowd, rather than the pitch invader himself! His rows with managers also never escaped the headlines, from club vs. country rows through to claims he never spoke to Manchester City’s then manager Roberto Mancini for 18 months, there was never a dull moment!
Throw in alleged assault claims/arrests in 2006 and 2011 relating to off the field activities and now perhaps you can see the darker side of Craig Bellamy we have been mentioning throughout.
So, to sum up Craig Bellamy, there is no doubt whatsoever that he was a very talented footballer. His footballing talents and feisty personality are perhaps best referenced with a nod to his Welsh heritage; Bellamy was a true Dragon. Most days he breezed by rival defenses with aplomb. Other days, he breathed fire!