Craig Bellamy has walked in the same illustrious footsteps as former Liverpool strikers Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler, not once, but now twice as he returns, just like the two former legends did, for a second spell and the club. Unlike the aforementioned duo though, Bellamy did not enjoy a very successful first period at the club – so why should this time be any different?
The Welshman’s first stint at Anfield was not without its controversial moments, as former team-mate John-Arne Riise will testify. The now infamous team building golf club attack incident led many on Merseyside to joke that on his return, Bellamy should replace the outgoing Meireles as the team’s new number four! He unfortunately declined. Despite his fiery temperament and confrontational nature, Bellamy (golf club aside) was rarely any trouble during this first period, to many people’s pleasant surprise. He was however, a victim of bad management on the part of the then Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez, who failed to get the best out of the frontman, as he did with many other attacking players during his reign on Merseyside. For the Bellamy of that period, read: Keane, Cisse, Babel – victims of the Spaniard’s tactical shackles and obsession of playing forwards out of position. His time during this era was best summed up by Bentitez leaving him on the bench during the entire Champions League final, with Liverpool chasing the game, eventually losing 2-1.
The Bellamy of this period however is a much different proposition, not least because of who signed him, and will be managing the team this season: Kenny Dalglish. Revealing what was the biggest factor in choosing to return to Merseyside for his second stint childhood Liverpool fan Bellamy stated: ‘I’ve grown up with Kenny Dalglish, now to be signed by him is a massive honour’ before adding: ‘To every Liverpool fan, Kenny is probably the best player ever to pull on the red shirt so that speaks for itself. When Kenny took over, watching as a fan last season I got the buzz as well.’ So Bellamy will now be playing for his childhood club managed by one of his childhood hero’s. Add this to the feeling of unfinished business the Welshman has at Liverpool, will mean he should be chomping at the bit to perform for the club he left after just one season in 2007.
Another major difference in why Bellamy’s second spell at the club could turn out more positive is his experience. I’m not just talking age here – although he’s older and wiser, and with the shape of the current Liverpool squad, at aged 33 with suspect knee problems, he’s not expected to play twice a week. I’m talking of his experience since he left the Reds, especially spending two seasons at Manchester City where he finally fulfilled his immense talents, arguably producing the best form of his career from a variety of attacking positions. If Dalglish can harness any of this experience and talent, and manage his match fitness correctly, then Bellamy’s should prove a canny acquisition by the Scot. It’s certainly a re-signing club captain Steven Gerrard approves of: ‘I’m delighted that Craig is back – I didn’t want him to leave in the first place. That pace and the fiery character he’s got will help us in our push for success this season. When he was here before he was popular and one of the hardest working in training. He was always in the gym getting himself in good shape. What people need to realise is that Craig is a top professional. He works really hard day in, day out.’ Before adding: ‘I’m sure he will be desperate to play for Kenny.’
They say you should never go back, but throughout his career Bellamy has always liked to fight against the odds.