Craig Bellamy: the Welsh Dragon

Craig Bellamy: the Welsh Dragon

Player Profile: Craig Bellamy

Date of Birth: 13/7/1979

Height: 5 ft 9 in

Position(s): Winger/Forward

National Team: Wales

International Caps: 78

International Goals: 19

Club Career

One of the most controversial figures in English football throughout the 2000s and 2010s, Craig Bellamy played for ten clubs throughout an 18-year career. Winning four trophies in this period, the Welsh international certainly had the abilities to back up his off-pitch activities.

A winger who could play any position in a front three, Bellamy began his career at Bristol Rovers in 1988. Prior to this, Cardiff City – the club Bellamy supported since birth – had shown an interest in the nine-year-old but ultimately chose not to seize the chance to sign the youngster. Though it didn’t materialise then, the Bellamy would eventually fulfil his childhood dream of playing for the club.

After two years in the Bristol Rovers academy, Bellamy signed for Norwich City where he would spend the rest of his formative footballing years. He graduated to the first team in 1996 and in four seasons for the Canaries would make just shy of a century of appearances, scoring 34 goals in the process.

From the outset, Bellamy marked himself out as one of the most promising talents in the English football pyramid. He scored 13 goals in the First Division – later rebranded as the Championship – in what was his first full season as a pro.

The following campaign, Bellamy planted his foot even more firmly in the door, becoming a permanent fixture in Mike Walker’s side. While his performances on the turf consistently impressed, his attitude off it left a lot to be desired. Bellamy is a player who had multiple disciplinary problems in his career and his early days with Norwich were probably the peak in terms of his misbehaviour.

Since retirement, the winger has attributed a great deal of his negative antics to homesickness and depression. Football was still very much in the era of younger players cleaning the senior pros’ boots and Bellamy was centre-half John Polston’s designated apprentice. Bellamy has spoken of his dislike for Polston who he said bullied and intimidated him, behaviour that aggravated Bellamy’s errant tendencies.

When Bruce Rioch was appointed as Norwich manager in 1998, Bellamy was moved from central midfield to the forward line. It was a gear change which earnt him his first transfer, a £6-million switch to Premier League team Coventry City, a record for the club at the time. Again, Bellamy impressed – he started nearly every game for City and scored 6 Premier League goals in his first campaign in the top flight.

This form earnt him a move to Champions League challenging Newcastle United. It would be a move which would prove pivotal in Bellamy’s career, earmarking him as one of the most exciting players in his position. Under the stewardship of the late Bobby Robson, Bellamy got his first taste of European football playing for the Magpies in the UEFA Cup in the 01-02 season.

In his first campaign, Bellamy won the PFA Young Player of the Year Award for his outstanding contribution to the side which finished in 4th place in the league, bringing Champions League football to St James Park.

He would play over 100 games for the club which, in his four-year spell, changed hands from Bobby Robson to Graeme Souness. His tenacity and bulldog-like approach to the game endeared him to both managers. In the 04-05 campaign – Bellamy’s last with Newcastle United – the young winger moved on loan to Celtic where he won his first major honour as a footballer, the Scottish Cup.

He moved on permanently at the start of the following campaign, signing for Blackburn Rovers, then under the management of Bellamy’s fellow countryman Mark Hughes. In his one and only season at Ewood Park, Bellamy had a goals-to-games ratio of better than one in two. He scored some truly stunning goals, the best being a solo effort against Portsmouth which is unfailingly included in montages of the best Premier League goals.

He was signed by Liverpool at the start of the 06-07 campaign. He was largely disappointing in yet another single season with a club and his time at Anfield is remembered mainly for the infamous ‘golf club incident’ between himself and John Arne Riise which saw the Welshman attack the full-back with a putter.

Later, Bellamy would celebrate his first goal after the incident – an equaliser against Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the Champions League last 16 – by miming a golf swing, much to the press’s hilarity. Liverpool reached the final of that year’s European competition with Bellamy an unused sub as Liverpool slumped to a 2-1 defeat to AC Milan.

He left for West Ham United not long after this European disappointment, spending one and a half seasons at Upton Park before moving on to an on-the-up Manchester City at the mid-point of the 08-09 campaign. Bellamy spent two seasons with the club and narrowly avoided Champions League qualification in the second.

He spent the following campaign on loan with Cardiff City, moving down a level to play in the Championship. Truth be told, Bellamy was too good to play in the second tier and he returned to the Premier League, and to Liverpool, the following season. He would spend one more season under the management of the legendary Kenny Dalglish in which he would lift the League Cup before returning to Cardiff City this time on a permanent basis.

Bellamy helped Cardiff to promotion in the 12-13 season and enjoyed one more campaign in the top flight before calling time on what had been a stellar career.

International Career

Bellamy’s 79 caps for Wales are enough to make him the seventh most capped player in the nation’s history.

He made his debut in 1998 against Jamaica and would score his first goal a few short months later, the opening strike in a 3-0 win over Malta. It was the first of the 19 goals Bellamy scored for his country.

Bellamy took the captaincy in 2004 and, although he did not have the opportunity to represent his country at a major tournament, he is still a hugely popular figure in Welsh football. He played under six managers and was an ever-present in the squad selections of each.

Bellamy also has the unusual distinction of having represented Great Britain as well as Wales, playing in Stuart Pearce’s 2012 Olympic side.

Where is Craig Bellamy Now?

Bellamy re-entered the game as an academy coach at his beloved Cardiff City in 2016. He held a number of different positions within the club, all of them in the youth departments.

He was linked with the manager’s job at Oxford United in 2018 but nothing came to fruition and he returned to Cardiff City.

Bellamy resigned from his position with the Bluebirds at the start of 2019 following accusations of bullying by Alfie Madden, a former youth player for the club. The investigation which followed conclude that Bellamy was involved in wrongdoing, though he himself denies any intentional bullying behaviour.

Now, Bellamy has reunited with ex-teammate Vincent Kompany at Anderlecht where he is working as an under-21 coach.

Did You Know? Interesting facts about Craig Bellamy

Heavy hitter: Bellamy is into martial arts and owns his own Combat MMA gym in Cardiff.

African Altruism: After a trip to Sierra Leone in 2007, Bellamy opened a charity, The Craig Bellamy Foundation, in the region using £1.4 million out of his own pocket. Bellamy is also an ambassador for Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital for Wales.