Bellamy broadside at Cardiff fans latest in long line of tiresome tirades

If the former Wales international is to remain influential in the dressingroom he will need to find the net more often

Cardiff City manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates his side’s victory against Norwich with Craig Bellamy. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

Cardiff City manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates his side’s victory against Norwich with Craig Bellamy. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

 

If Cardiff City stay in the Premier League this year their supporters should probably write a song for Norwich striker Gary Hooper.

On Saturday, they were losing at home to Norwich when Hooper rescued them with a bizarre pass across the face of his own defence. Wilfried Zaha pounced on the error and played in Craig Bellamy, who had escaped his markers amid the confusion. Bellamy’s scuffed finish was sharp enough to deceive John Ruddy and roll into the net for 1-1.

It was Bellamy’s first goal in the Premier League for two years. He scrambled to his feet, then took off towards the crowd to gloat, first holding a finger to his lips, then dismissing them with a derisive swipe of his hand and a shout of “f***ing w*****s”. But wait a minute, weren’t those his own fans?

It transpires Bellamy was angry with the Cardiff fans because they had cheered the substitution of Peter Whittingham, who had lasted only 37 minutes of the first half before being replaced.

Being substituted before half-time is humiliating and taking Whittingham off so early showed Solskjaer’s ruthless edge.

The Cardiff manager probably understands the bench environment better than any of the top players in the Premier League, having spent so much of his gilded career sitting there. He knew his decision would be crushing for Whittingham. But Solskjaer felt he had to do something to change the pattern of the game. And Zaha’s leading role in the comeback suggests he made the right call.


‘It’s not like us’
Afterwards, Solskjaer said he hoped the win could be the start of a new era in Cardiff’s history. But Bellamy was still fighting the battle he’d started out on the pitch. Before the sweat had dried, he was having another go at

supporters in his post-match interview.

“I’ve never heard the crowd like that. That’s not the club I’m from,” he said. “I’ve not seen them direct it at individuals before, which they did. Maybe it’s modern football and I’m trying to get used to that. But it’s not like us.”

It sounded like Bellamy had misjudged the mood. In football there’s only one reliable way to stop fans complaining, and it’s not to insult them during goal celebrations or criticise them in TV interviews. It had been a good day for Cardiff and maybe this was a time to congratulate his team-mates rather than argue with fans.

For every Cardiff fan impressed by Bellamy’s fearlessness in criticising the crowd, there’ll be another who says this is a bit rich coming from someone who supported Liverpool in his early years, etc. It’s seldom worth a player’s time to argue with his club’s supporters. But Bellamy has never been able to keep his own counsel. That is the main reason why he’s just become the first player to score in the Premier League for seven different clubs.

Solskjaer’s assistant manager at Cardiff is Mark Dempsey. But the Norwegian is going to have to get used to Bellamy assuming a quasi-managerial role. In his autobiography, Bellamy suggests that some of his former managers, including Bobby Robson and Mark Hughes, were pleased to see him berating underperforming team-mates as it saved them having to do it.

However, Not everybody appreciated Bellamy’s brand of honesty. At Manchester City, Robinho told Bellamy: “You always talk. It should be the manager who talks, not you.” The Brazilian was joined near the top of Bellamy’s enemies’ list by his former Newcastle team-mate Alan Shearer. In his interview on Saturday Bellamy said: “It’s never been about personal glory.” By contrast, according to his book, Shearer was in it for himself – “not the team, not the other players. It was about himself.”

One April afternoon in 2005, while Bellamy was on loan at Celtic from Newcastle, he sat in a bar in Donegal with Neil Lennon and watched his parent club lose 4-1 to Manchester United in the semi-final of the FA Cup.


Scathing of Shearer
Afterwards, Shearer did a

television interview that annoyed Bellamy.

“He mentioned shortcomings in defence, which made me laugh. Alan needed to look at himself a bit more. He wasn’t the player he had been and now he was trying to pass the buck.”

Bellamy texted Shearer: “F***ing typical of you. Looking at everyone else yet again. You need to look at yourself instead. Your legs are f***ing shot. Concentrate on yourself and let the team take care of itself.”

Shearer replied that if he ever saw Bellamy in Newcastle again he’d knock him out.

He refused to reply to Bellamy’s subsequent taunts, but the original point stands. In football, authority flows from performance. In Bellamy’s estimation, it didn’t matter that Shearer was the most prolific striker to have played in the Premier League. When the former England and Newcastle striker’s legs went, so did his right to criticise others.

For now, Solskjaer believes that having Bellamy inside Cardiff’s tent beats the alternative. “Craig is an amazing player,” he said. “Like Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs he does not just demand 100 per cent from himself every day, he demands it of everyone around him too. He’s a big presence in our dressing room; he’s one of the leaders.”

Saturday’s goal was Bellamy’s first for more than a year. If he wants to remain one of the dresingroom leaders, the next one had better not be so long coming.

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