The Final Countdown

Craig Bellamy

LOST BOYO IN GLASGOW (Celtic – Loan) – 2005 – 15 appearances; 9 goals

OTHER CLUBS: Norwich City, Coventry City, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers, Liverpool, West Ham United, Manchester City, Cardiff City (Loan), Liverpool

WALES CAREER: Wales U21 (8 caps; 1 goal), Wales (67 caps; 19 goals)

For Craig Bellamy, the next ten days could almost define a career. Next Saturday, Bellamy and Liverpool will face Cardiff City, his hometown team, in the Welsh striker’s first English cup final appearance. Three days later, Bellamy, a team-mate at both club and country level of Gary Speed, will be at the Cardiff City Stadium to face Costa Rica in the late Wales manager’s memorial match, with many believing that the game could be the last time he pulls on the Welsh shirt.

Here at Lost Boyos, we have long been supporters of Bellamy, but it’s taken a long time for many of the British footballing public to share our view. For much of his career, Bellamy’s bad boy image has been talked about ahead of his skill on the field. It’s probably no coincidence that his number of admirers has grown as word of his charity work in Sierra Leone has been made more public.

People finally began to notice Bellamy’s brilliance as one of the key player’s in Mark Hughes’ expensively-assembled Manchester City squad. Admiration for the striker grew when, frozen out by Hughes’ successor Roberto Mancini, he was willing to drop down a division to help the Bluebirds in their (ultimately unsuccessful) promotion charge in the 2010-11 season. Released by City at the end of that season, Bellamy has continued to win new admirers this season in his second spell at Liverpool, often being referred to as ‘the signing of the season.’

Should Liverpool defeat Cardiff at Wembley, it will be Bellamy’s first winners medal in English football, but not the first of his senior career.

Bellamy joined the Lost Boyo ranks on the 2004-2005 January transfer deadline day when, after falling out with manager Graeme Souness and legendary striker Alan Shearer, he was loaned to Celtic from Newcastle United.

Bellamy’s introduction to football north-of-the-border could not have gone any worse as Celtic suffered a 2-0 home loss to Rangers. Things improved the following week when Bellamy got his first goal for the Hoops in a 5-0 Scottish Cup win away at Clyde, although he again courted controversy for allegedly boasting to Clyde defender Darren Sheridan about how much money he was earning. Two weeks later, Bellamy got his first SPL goal in a 3-1 win against Hibernian, but again made headlines for the wrong reasons. ‘Bellamy as popular in Scotland as in England‘ proclaimed the Guardian sarcastically as he was accused by Hibs defender Gary Caldwell of not shaking his hand at the final whistle.

That March saw Bellamy score five league goals, three of them coming in a 3-2 win away at Dundee United, and end the month as the SPL’s Player of the Month. After the Dundee United game, Bellamy spoke of how he was desperate to succeed in Scotland and how he wanted to prove himself in the next Old Firm game against Rangers.

At that point, the crunch fixture at Ibrox was still five weeks away, and in the meantime Bellamy scored important winners in games against Hearts and Aberdeen. Bellamy scored the second in a 2-1 victory over Hearts that booked Celtic’s place in the Scottish Cup Final and the third in a 3-2 home win against Aberdeen when Celtic were two-down.

Next came the Rangers game where Bellamy did indeed prove himself to the Celtic faithful. In the 34th minute, Bellamy was freed by Alan Thompson and a curled an excellent shot into the corner for a 2-0 lead, after Stilian Petrov had opened the scoring. Celtic won the match 2-1 to maintain their advantage in the league and virtually seal a fourth title in five years.

Bellamy’s goal would, however, prove to be meaningless (if an Old Firm winner can ever be described thus). Rangers won their remaining four fixtures, while Celtic defeated Hearts then lost in dramatic fashion on the last day of the season to Motherwell: Celtic were leading with two minutes to go before Scott McDonald scored a late brace to hand Rangers the title.

Celtic and Bellamy were not to end the season empty-handed, though. A week later, the players picked themselves up and defeated Motherwell 1-0 in the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden Park. Alan Thompson scored with an early free-kick after Bellamy had been fouled. Bellamy was later nominated man-of-the-match in the only showpiece final appearance of his career so far.

If Bellamy takes to the field in another final next Sunday, Wales will be divided about him adding to his personal trophy haul. When he takes to the field in Cardiff three days later, the country will be united in the hope it’s not the last time.

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