Bellamy closes in on goals milestone
Craig Bellamy is one goal short of a career milestone as he prepares to take on former club Norwich City.
The Wales international goes into Cardiff City's Championship trip to Carrow Road on Saturday on 149 goals in all competitions in club football – more than 13 years after scoring the first of them for the Canaries.
The 31-year-old Bellamy has scored five times in 15 appearances since joining his home city club on a season-long loan from Manchester City in August.
He has been managed carefully by Bluebirds boss Dave Jones because of a knee condition – he missed the FA Cup third round tie at Stoke on Saturday – but looks certain to return for the promotion battle with Paul Lambert's side, when he will be looking for goal number 150.
Former City boss Mike Walker, who gave the 17-year-old Bellamy his first team debut for Norwich, today saluted his scoring record and recalled the precocious teenager who burst on the scene back in 1997.
'Our scout down in Wales recommended him to us. He was very confident, even as a 14-year-old and that's never changed,' said Walker.
'The only thing we had doubts about was his physique. He was very small but he had great talent and ability, and a real appetite for the game.
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'You never know for certain but there was always a pretty good chance he would play at the highest level.'
Bellamy scored his first Football League goal for City in a 2-2 draw at home to Bury in the former Division One on November 1, 1997, the first of 13 goals in 41 outings that season.
He had scored 34 in 91 games by the time he moved to Coventry for �6.5m in 2000, when Bryan Hamilton was City boss.
'It was only a question of time before he had to move on, but with a player like that you keep him as long as you can,' said Walker. 'What you have to do is try to improve him and get the best out of him for the benefit of the team.
'With due respect to Norwich, they've tended to be a selling club, certainly at that time. Clubs in the top league will always come in for your young talent and we used to produce quite a few in those days.'
Bellamy has since added to his goal tally with eight for Coventry, 43 for Newcastle, nine for Celtic, 17 for Blackburn, nine for Liverpool, nine for West Ham, 15 for Manchester City and five for Cardiff, the latest in last week's 2-1 home win over Leeds.
Despite such an illustrious list of former clubs, plus 60 caps for Wales, and commanding transfer fees totalling �45m, his only major honours are a Scottish Cup win while on loan at Celtic in 2005 and a runners-up medal in the 2007 Champions League final, when he was on the bench for Liverpool against AC Milan.
Said Walker: 'He hasn't stayed at his clubs very long for one reason or another and maybe he will regret it if he doesn't win a major trophy.
'You would have thought with the clubs he's been at, Liverpool for example, he would have won something but having said that, they haven't won anything for years.
'But Craig has had and is still having a very good career. Remember he's had a couple of major injuries and it says a lot about his determination and attitude that he has recovered from those.
'And he could help Cardiff to promotion this season – nobody's running away with it and from their experience in the last two seasons, when they went close, they have a great chance. You can see why Dave Jones signed him.'
Walker acknowledged that Bellamy, who once dubbed himself the 'new Juninho' as a youngster at Norwich, has had his share of problems.
He said: 'He's brought some criticism on himself, some of which is unfair if you talk to some of the coaches he has worked with - Mark Hughes once said he always trains 100 per cent, works hard for the team and wants the team to win. He always wants to do well.
'He's rubbed a few people up the wrong way but if he wasn't such a good player you wouldn't put up with it.'
Walker, twice City manager, is now based in Cyprus, but keeps right up to date with the English game.
'Though I'm not in football, I keep track of all of it and all my clubs and Norwich are doing well,' he said.
'They had fallen away and went down - and it's no good saying any club is too good to go down when you see what happened to Manchester City a few years ago - but Paul Lambert's come in and put that right and they are on a tremendous run at the moment.
'If they keep up that consistency they've got a great chance of automatic promotion.
'It should be a good game against Cardiff, although sometimes those games can be a bit untidy because there is a lot of tension. The main thing is the result, though. If you get a good performance that's a bonus, but getting the win is the important thing.'