Bellamy shines in second spell on Merseyside
Welshman has put past behind him as he stars under Dalglish, writes Paul Wilson
Not that many people get to sign for Liverpool twice, especially when the first time became infamous for an attack on a team-mate with a golf club, but Craig Bellamy has always held Anfield and its traditions in the highest regard, and when Kenny Dalglish returned as manager it quickly became apparent the feeling was mutual.
That at 32 Bellamy (pictured) was the oldest of Dalglish's signings this summer simply encouraged the manager to act quickly to make up for lost time, previous bad publicity and perceived bad attitude or not. "He's a player I have always admired," Dalglish said. "I'm not worried about what has happened in the past, we'll just focus on the good bits."
There are still plenty of those, and Bellamy was instrumental in helping Liverpool to victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last week. This afternoon's visit of Manchester City pits the volatile Welshman against his last Premier League club, recalling memories of another tale of woe and communication breakdown, which ended with Bellamy seeking self-imposed exile in his home country, a sort of low-budget trailer for the fully blown Carlos Tevez saga that would soon follow.
There is one major difference between Bellamy and the equally misunderstood Argentinian, however. Should the Welshman fail to make the starting line-up this afternoon he will not sulk or strop, and should he be asked to come off the bench he will do so gladly. Because, unlike last time, and unlike Tevez at City at just about any time, Bellamy is happy at Liverpool and Liverpool are happy with him. "This now feels right, this is everything I wanted from the first time I was here," he says. "My gut feeling last time was that it was not quite right but I ended up signing just because it was Liverpool. The way Liverpool are playing now is what I grew up with, and the opportunity to be part of that was too big a deal to turn down."
If the credit for that should go to Dalglish, the manager himself is quick to commend the application Bellamy has shown the second time around. "He's a brilliant professional," Dalglish says. "He's made a huge contribution on and off the pitch here and I'm delighted with him. What he did elsewhere I don't know, I'm not really interested, but what I do know is that at 17 years of age at Norwich he spent most of his wages putting weights in a garage somewhere to try and build himself up. He had worked out he needed to strengthen himself so he set about doing it. He's still very determined, but with age and maturity there's a bit more understanding now about his profession and also about himself."
The days are probably gone when Bellamy could play in every game anyway, even if that was his manager's wish. The plan now is to make his top-level career last as long as possible, and try to make sure each appearance counts. Whereas Roberto Mancini could not fit Bellamy into City's schedules, Dalglish seems to be bringing the best out of him. "You just do things the way you feel comfortable doing things, and that's all I've done," he says. "The way I do things might suit Craig but it might not suit some others."
City ended up making a loss on Bellamy, just as they did with Robinho and look likely to do with Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor. Dalglish cannot help but smile when people remind him that he too "bought" a title with Blackburn. "We weren't spending fortunes at Blackburn, there is no comparison between the two levels of spending," he says. "It's a complete and utter mismatch. Plus we were working to a different principle at Blackburn. We wanted to be successful, we wanted to improve, but we wanted to improve the balance sheet as well. It is true that Blackburn spent money on players, I know what came in but I also know what went out. We made a profit on all the major signings."
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