Bellamy: My achievements all down to City

CHRIS LAKEY Craig Bellamy finally comes "home" tonight after seven years with some of the biggest clubs in Britain - and says none of it would have been possible without Norwich City.


Craig Bellamy finally comes "home" tonight after seven years with some of the biggest clubs in Britain - and says none of it would have been possible without Norwich City.

Bellamy has commanded transfer fees totalling over £30m since leaving City in August 2000 and embarking on a career which has taken him to Newcastle, Blackburn, Celtic and Liverpool.

But the sometimes controversial striker says he owes his success to his humble beginnings at Carrow Road - where tonight he will run out as an opposition player for the first time when City continue their pre-season build-up against Premiership outfit West Ham.

"Norwich is a little bit different to a lot of the other clubs," said Bellamy. "No disrespect to them, but I grew up at Norwich from 12 years of age. I came through a great youth system. I had really good coaches, from Mike Sutton - Chris Sutton's dad - to Keith Webb, to Steve Foley. I was very fortunate to have a good schooling and that has really got me to where I am today.

"I have been very fortunate with the clubs I have played for - I have been with some of the very, very top clubs, but at the end of the day it wouldn't have been possible if I hadn't been at Norwich as a youngster.

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"It was the perfect place for me to learn my trade and come up through the ranks. It is a mellow place - there is nothing else to do as a young kid apart from play football - but I wouldn't be where I am now if it wasn't for Norwich."

Bellamy's type - the home-produced star sold for millions - is increasingly rare, but his advice to young hopefuls trying to force their way into Peter Grant's thoughts is simple.

"You have to improve - if you go out on loan you have to improve again and make sure you come back a better player because if a manager is not playing you he obviously doesn't feel you are in a position at the time to play you or that you need time to develop elsewhere," he said.

"But that shouldn't be a deterrent. I was lucky enough to go straight in - but my situation compared to the younger players now is probably a lot different. I was in a team that was struggling and heavily in debt and they couldn't bring players in so we were forced in. I played probably a season too early.

"We just didn't have anyone else because of the situation Norwich were in at the time. I benefited from it, don't get me wrong, but probably the team didn't."

Bellamy's departure to Coventry in the summer of 2000 for £6.5m went a long way to alleviating debts at Carrow Road, but his travels since then have kept him away from his spiritual home - until tonight.

He said: "Strangely it's my first time back - I scored at St James for Newcastle in Norwich's Premiership season, but that is the only time I have played against them - later that season I went to Celtic on loan so I missed the game at Carrow Road.

"On Tuesday it's a case of us just trying to get 90 minutes in at a good standard. I have still got a bit more fitness to work on, I need to step it up again and hopefully it will be a chance to improve my game and get myself ready for opening game against Man City."

While the likes of Sutton, Webb and Foley have all gone there will be at least one familiar face around tonight - summer signing Jamie Cureton, brought in to replace Bellamy's Wales team-mate Robert Earnshaw.

And Bellamy knows from experience just what City are hoping for from Cureton.

"I was a youngster coming through when Jamie was in the youth team," he said. "I watched him play for the youths, but then Martin O'Neill came in and he wasn't really much involved then, he went out to Bristol Rovers.

"As for Earnie, I think every time he has been in the Championship he has been the best centre forward in the Championship, so you are losing someone who is going to get you 20 goals definitely in a season. But that's over now, you have to regroup - Curo had a fantastic season last season so hopefully Norwich will be get the same from him this season."