Dogged by controversy

Despite his pace and goals, Craig Bellamy's row with former Newcastle manager Graeme Souness remains the stand-out incident in his career, writes ANDY HAMPSON.

Pacy but at times problematic, striker Craig Bellamy joined his boyhood team Liverpool from fellow Barclays English Premier League side Blackburn this summer.

Bellamy is regarded as one of the most talented strikers in the English top flight but his career, which has taken in Norwich, Coventry, Newcastle, Celtic and Blackburn, has been dogged by controversy.

The Cardiff-born Bellamy joined Norwich as a trainee in 1996 and made his first-team debut in March the following year. He came to the limelight in the 1997-98 season when he netted 13 goals in 38 appearances for the Canaries, then in the First Division (now the Coca-Cola Championship) and was rewarded with a first Wales cap.

His emergence was one of the few bright spots in a poor season for Norwich but he missed the start of the following campaign due to injury following a clash with Wolves' Kevin Muscat. He sat out for two months but returned in style to score 17 goals in the rest of the season.

A knee injury sustained in pre-season all but ruined his 1999-2000 season but his problems did not affect his value and Norwich eventually cashed in by selling him to Premier League Coventry for GBP6.5 million.

He made a bright start with the Sky Blues, scoring twice in his first three games but he generally had an unhappy season there in a struggling side. When the club were relegated he moved on to Newcastle for GBP6 million.

It was on Tyneside that his career began to take off. He formed a potent partnership with Alan Shearer and netted 14 goals as Newcastle finished fourth in the Premier League. He was named PFA Young Player of the Year but missed the end of the season due to yet another knee trouble.

The following season saw controversy again as he was sent off for kicking an opponent in a Champions League match against Inter Milan and he was charged with a public order offence after a nightclub incident in March 2003.

The 2003-04 season was again ruined by knee and other injuries and in the following campaign his aggressive style and verbal tirades began to get the better of his Newcastle career. Manager Sir Bobby Robson described Bellamy as the "gobbiest" player he had ever worked with but that was nothing compared to what his successor in the Newcastle hotseat, Graeme Souness, thought of the player.

Souness, a renowned disciplinarian, and Bellamy were simply a collision waiting to happen. The pair eventually had a huge public fall-out in January 2005 and Souness quickly sent him off on loan to Celtic. He had a good spell with the Glasgow club, who won the Scottish Cup, but although they wanted him to stay permanently, it was Blackburn who met Newcastle's asking price.

He had a strong season with Rovers and, although he made the front pages after another nightclub incident, he revived his Premiership career. His 17 goals earned him GBP6.5 million move to Liverpool.

Despite his pace and goals, Bellamy's row with Souness remains the stand-out incident in his career. The pair came to blows, metaphorically at least, after Souness began to deploy Bellamy as a winger. Angered, Bellamy stormed out of a training session claiming to be injured.

Souness accused Bellamy of feigning injury to avoid playing on the wing and dropped him for a game against Arsenal. The manager revealed this on TV but Bellamy hit back by giving an interview accusing Souness of lying. The player was fined two weeks' wages, around GBP 80,000, over the affair and his Newcastle career was effectively over.

Bellamy married childhood sweetheart Claire Jensen this summer in a low-key ceremony close to his GBP2 million home in St. Bride's-super-Ely, near Cardiff. Bellamy had to cut short their honeymoon due to a court hearing relating to a nightclub incident in March. Bellamy has two sons, born in 1998 and 2002.

He drives a black Bentley Continental with personalised number plates. The Continental is a classy sports car with a long history dating back to the 1950s. The latest models sell at around GBP 112,000 and do 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds. They have a top speed of 198mph.

FACTFILE Name: Craig Bellamy Position: Striker Club: Liverpool DOB: 13/07/1979 Wales Caps: 36 Wales Goals: 9 Wales debut: v Jamaica, March 1998

Moment to remember: Wales enjoyed a resurgence under Mark Hughes and came within a play-off victory of qualifying for Euro 2004. They had a memorable qualifying campaign with Bellamy securing a famous 2-1 victory over Italy at the Millennium Stadium in October 2002 with a second-half winner.

Moment to forget: Bellamy's clash with Kevin Muscat proved the start of an injury problem that has recurred throughout his career. Australian Muscat has long had a hard-man reputation and has been involved in notorious incidents with Stan Lazaridis, Christophe Dugarry, Danny Webber, Matty Holmes and Milan Baros.

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