The Craig Bellamy Factor
I am anticipating some serious Craig Bellamy antics in the upcoming season. It’s to the point where, if he stays at City, I’ll almost be dissapointed if we don’t see something on par with The Golf Club Incident (on par… sorry, couldn’t resist). I’m not saying I condone personal injury—but serious property damage from a swinging cricket bat or something could be on the horizon at least.
Let me explain.
As a striker, Bellamy always showed promise with his drive and speed. When he burst onto the scene at Newcastle, he won the PFA Young Player of the Year Award and one would have expected a bright future for the Welsh international. It was always a beautiful sight to see him slide in behind defenses and gobble up the slotted ball, speed toward goal and put it away. But tales of off-the-pitch outbursts and antics have long plagued our image of Craig Bellamy. The alleged chair-throwing incident at Newcastle. The public spats with Graeme Sounness and stories he feigned an injury to avoid an Arsenal match. Reports of texted drunken rants to Newcastle’s Alan Shearer after Bellamy had moved to Blackburn. The aforementioned Golf Club Incident, where Bellamy supposedly attacked fellow Liverpool teammate John Arne Riise with a golf club.
Yes, these are all reported, alleged, supposed, etc. But these stories are so consistent, we get a prevailing sense of his troublesome side. And there’s always that fire in his eyes.
When he was at Liverpool, his attitude seemed to ebb and flow with his place in the pecking order. When he got the starts, he seemed bright and eager. Happy to be of service. Willing to fully give himself to the team out on the pitch. When he was benched or subbed off, suddenly we saw the black clouds gather over his head.
A friend and I had a phrase for it: The Bellamy Face. It was a wrinkled are-you-serious look—half consternation, half irritation. The brow furrowed, the arms came up, palms raised to question the situation. You saw it anytime the ref blew the whistle on him. And you saw it in abundance when Rafa pulled him off the pitch. It was like Bellamy couldn’t understand why everybody didn’t understand how good he was. Why would a call ever go against him? Why would he ever be subbed off?
Then he moved to West Ham and, when fit, he scored goals and seemed relatively well behaved, I tuned into matches hoping for so many instances of The Bellamy Face, only to be dissapointed by the bright visage of a happy goalscorer. I wondered if Bellamy had grown up and put his antics behind him… then, he reportedly stormed out of a training session over not being allowed to talk to Tottenham about a move. The old Bellamy was still alive and kicking (so to speak). Not on the level of chair-throwing or club-swinging, but it suggests the firey temper is as intrinsic a part of the Bellamy picture as his abundant tattoos.
Bellamy can be the productive striker and the collected professional when he wants to be. In fact, the first usually leads to the second. Perhaps he’s a few anger-management sessions away from keeping it together forever. But until then, he needs little to set him off.
Now, with Adebayor and Tevez coming in in the reported neighborhood of £50m, Bellamy is sure to be bumped down City’s food chain. He says he’s eager to fight for his place… but what kind of fighting does he mean?
Bellamy wants to be the star and the center of attention. But while he would be at his best as a player and a human being at a club that gave him constant starts, while his football tends to overshadow his antics whenever he is the big fish in a small pond, his European ambitions have brought him to City. He thinks City have a chance at the continent. But he won’t be the top dog at Eastlands. He won’t be happy.
It is only a matter of time before the frustration of waiting on the bench or of being subbed off one too many times sparks the classic Bellamy outburst. Mr Hyde takes over. Dr Jeckyll fades into the background.
Maybe he’ll prove me wrong. Maybe at 30 years of age Bellamy can still grow up. But you can understand if I have my doubts. And, anyway: even if there are no swinging blunt objects (which really would be better for everyone), I at least want to see him make The Bellamy Face a good 57 times over the course of the season. I’m setting that quota. For old time’s sake.