Nomad: a person who does not stay long in the same place; a wanderer.
Clubs: Norwich City, Coventry City, Newcastle United, Celtic (loan), Blackburn Rovers, Liverpool, West Ham United, Manchester City, Cardiff City (loan), Liverpool, Cardiff City
Countries played in: 2
Most professional footballers go through their whole career only having a handful of clubs. In fact, some manage to spend their whole career at one club. Being a one-club man is something than endears football players to a fan base and is generally seen as the ultimate display of loyalty. However, what about those players that don’t manage to settle. The players who don’t find a home in their short professional career and instead jump from club to club in a pursuit of challenges and success. This series looks at those players who are footballing nomads; wanderers.
Craig Bellamy started his career at Norwich City and would go on to play for nine different clubs, scoring for seven Premier League clubs in the process. The Cardiff-born Welshman was a figure that divided opinion, with his obvious ability perhaps hindered by his inability to stay out of trouble.
Many former professionals have spoken about Bellamy’s behaviour, with Jamie Carragher recalling a particular anecdote where, when playing against Bellamy’s Newcastle, he played a long ball forward to Robbie Fowler who Carragher felt hadn’t made enough effort to make a run, and thus let him know just that. Bellamy, completely unprovoked, started shouting to Carragher and ranted, in no uncertain terms, that Carragher had no right to shout at a player of Fowler’s perceived superior ability. The two would later become teammates, with Bellamy having two separate one-year spells at Liverpool.
It is perhaps due to Bellamy’s confrontational nature that he struggled to find a home for much of his career, although he did never leave the British Isles to play abroad. Bellamy was Newcastle United’s record signing when he joined in 2001 and finished in the top four twice in his four seasons at the club; winning the PFA Young Player of the Year award in that time too. However, he fell out with manager Graeme Souness and was loaned to Celtic in January 2005 before being sold to Blackburn Rovers in the summer. Clearly the relationship between player and manager had been damaged beyond repair, with Souness later stating that it was ‘me or him’. In fact, after leaving Newcastle in 2005, Bellamy would not play for another club for more than two seasons until he retired in 2014.
In the first of his two seasons at Liverpool, in the club’s run to the Champions League final in 2007, there was an incident prior to a last-16 match away at Barcelona where Bellamy went to John Arne Riise’s hotel room armed with a golf club. Bellamy and Riise had argued earlier in the evening on a team night out and Bellamy hadn’t let it go, allegedly shouting that: ‘no-one disrespects me like that in front of the lads’, before attacking Riise with the club. Ironically, Bellamy and Riise were Liverpool’s two goal scorers in the subsequent game and when Bellamy scored he quickly acted to respond to the allegations by celebrating by swinging an imaginary golf club. Despite the light-hearted nature of the celebration it would seem all was not forgotten, as Bellamy was sold in the summer after just 12 months at the club, and Riise later claimed in his autobiography that Bellamy could have easily ended his career and the two ‘would never be friends’.
Despite the unsettled nature of his career, Bellamy’s career did have something of a fairytale ending. He initially joined his hometown club, Cardiff City, on loan from Manchester City for the 2010-11 season, before re-joining Liverpool for what would prove to be another year-long stay. Following this, with the Welshman having endured a long struggle with knee injuries, Bellamy joined the Bluebirds permanently, and was pivotal in their promotion to the Premier League in his first season. In the club’s maiden Premier League season Bellamy struggled to play two games in a week and had to manage his injuries carefully.
After a tough season, Cardiff were relegated and Bellamy made the tough decision to retire; citing spending the past four years taking anti-inflammatories daily as the primary reason. The pocket-sized striker with electrifying pace ended his career having scored 135 league goals, as well as 19 for Wales, and was just as explosive a character as he was a footballer. Perhaps legendary figure Bobby Robson said it best when describing Bellamy in his autobiography as ‘a great player wrapped round an unusual and volatile character’.