Craig Bellamy Exclusive Interview Part II: I never felt the same about Newcastle after Bobby Robson was sacked
Exclusive By Oliver Holt
Craig Bellamy turned down the sound on the match he was watching in his Cheshire flat.
One of the most controversial players in the Premier League wanted to explain what makes him tick.
And to provide an insight into why his talent on the pitch is sometimes matched by a talent for getting himself into trouble.
Bellamy has been involved in a series of high-profile incidents in his 13-year professional career.
There was the physical confrontation with Newcastle coach John Carver in 2004, when he was said to have flung a chair at him, the time he called Graeme Souness a liar in a television interview, the texts he sent to Alan Shearer.
Then there was the time he brandished a golf club at Liverpool teammate John Arne Riise on a club mid-season break and the false accusations levelled at him that he had gone on strike at West Ham when he was on the verge of joining Manchester City.
“Because I run on high emotions,” Bellamy said, “emotions come first and then I think about it later. So there’s a lot of stuff I would have done differently during my career.
“But I have worked out what works for me and what doesn’t. I know how to motivate myself. I don’t show humility on the pitch. Of course I don’t.
“As soon as I cross the white line, I have to go out there believing I am the best, everyone is here to watch me, all that rubbish.
“The worst thing an opponent could do is kick me. If the game’s quiet and the crowd’s quiet, it’s the worst thing that could happen to me.
“When fans boo me, it gives me something extra. It gives me such a lift. It makes me want to embarrass a player or score a good goal or close down when I don’t need to close down.
“My aim then is to try and upset the fans as much as I can. If a player needs to try and break my concentration, that’s fine. I’m not a player who lives on concentration.
“There’s nothing personal in talking to players. It can upset a lot of people but I have never, ever injured a player. I have never gone through a player.
“Sometimes, you get the odd player who feels he has to do a stupid challenge to show he cares and get a cheer. That’s cowardice to me.
“Bravery is getting on the ball and showing the crowd you are not afraid to make a mistake. That’s what I try and live by. If I am having a bad time, I get on the ball as much as I can.
“Me being annoying is nothing personal. It’s what gets me motivated. I’ve tried to be quiet and if I’m quiet with my mouth, I’m quiet with my feet.”
His image off the pitch has been a problem, too, but Bellamy insisted that many of the incidents with which he has been involved have been exaggerated.
He has never spoken before about the altercation with Carver which happened at Newcastle airport as Sir Bobby Robson’s side were waiting to fly to a match against Real Mallorca.
The argument was seen as a symptom of Robson’s loss of control over a troublesome squad but Bellamy has a different story to tell.
“The thing people don’t know is that John Carver is one of my best friends. He was at my wedding. As a coach and player, we used to go out in the evenings together. I liked him a lot.
“The row before the Mallorca game had started at training a few hours earlier. I parked in his parking space. He’s a coach, he should have been in before me so I parked in his space.
“I knew he was upset about it and I kept winding him up. We had a bit of a confrontation at the airport and I was fuming then because he had had a go at me.
“So I had a big go at him. But we didn’t know what to do because we are friends so we were not going to punch each other so we ended up wrestling stupidly.
“I didn’t throw a chair at him. I threw a chair out of the way to go and argue with him and it nearly hit Shay Given but that was it.
“Someone went to get the manager and Bobby Robson came in and yelled at everyone to get out and get on the plane. I was saying ’I’m not going, I’m not getting on the plane, I’m going home to see my missus’.
“Bobby Robson told John Carver to get on the plane and I was still saying I was going home. He put his arm round me and said ’walk with me son’.
“So I walked with him and he started asking me about how my kids were, how they were doing at school, how was my missus. The next thing I knew I was on the plane.
“I was thinking ’how the f*** did I get here’. If he’d told me I had to get on the plane, I wouldn’t have got on.
“That evening, I was in my room in Majorca and still not happy. It didn’t take much in those days to put me on edge. So Bobby Robson has come round to my room and brought John Carver and Alan Shearer with him.
“I thought they had come to gang up on me so I was ready to have a right go back. I thought ’I’ll have a right go here’.
“But then Sir Bobby started blaming everything on John Carver and made him apologise to me. Then he told Alan what a great player I was and Alan had to agree.
“Sir Bobby gave me no room to argue. I was just sitting there taking compliments. I had been desperate to have an argument but I had nothing to go against.
“The next thing I know, I’m shaking everybody’s hand and we’re all friends. I ended up apologising to John Carver as well. Bobby Robson was a great man. I found it very hard to feel the same about Newcastle when he was fired.”
Bellamy was such a fervent admirer of Sir Bobby that he was sickened when he was sacked as Newcastle boss and found it hard to play for his successor, Graeme Souness.
The two men fell out spectacularly and after Souness criticised Bellamy after a game, Bellamy accused Souness of a ’downright lie’ during a television interview in January 2005.
“If there’s one thing I regret most,” Bellamy said, “it’s probably doing that interview. I meant what I said but I shouldn’t have done it.
“I do find it difficult to take when people question my attitude. I have had seven knee operations in nine years and that proves my dedication to the game.
“I live away from my family which I completely dislike. But I understand the game. I take the game so seriously that I have sacrificed most of my life for it.
“I left home in Cardiff at 14 to go to Norwich which might as well have been the other end of the world. If I was going to do it, I was going to give it my all.
“Now, I have been able to give my kids a living that I am able to feel very proud of. Mark Hughes and Bobby Robson put me on that platform to be able to do that. They will be the people that stick out most in my mind that I am grateful to.”
Robson’s departure also led indirectly to his fall-out with Shearer over mocking texts he sent the former England centre forward about his physical decline.
“I always got on fine with Shearer but when Bobby Robson went, maybe I resented him a bit for how the manager left,” Bellamy said.
“That’s where my relationship with him broke down. But he was a phenomenal player to play with and I am grateful for the opportunity I had to play with him.”
Later in his career, Bellamy was also falsely accused of going on strike at West Ham to force through his move to Manchester City.
“The move had been agreed between the two clubs and so I was driving up to Manchester to take my medical,” Bellamy said.
“When I was half way up there, there was some problem between the clubs over part of the fee and so I drove home to Cardiff.
“I spoke to Gianfranco Zola and he said that in an ideal world he would like me to play against Fulham the following day but he said he knew that couldn’t happen because I had missed two days of training and my head was all over the place.
“It was never a question of me refusing to play. It was never a question of him even asking me to play and me saying ’no’. It wasn’t an issue but that wasn’t what was reported.”
Bellamy insists that, off the pitch at least, he is finally beginning to mellow. On the pitch, he remains as eager as ever to prove himself.
“I have heard people saying we are all on trial now that Roberto Mancini has taken over at City,” Bellamy said. “But at a top club, you are always on trial. If you don’t play well, there will be somebody there to come in and take your place.
“I play for my three kids more than anyone else. I want to try to set them an example. All I can do is give my best and see where that takes me.”