If managed and used correctly, the signing of Craig Bellamy could be a masterstroke by Kenny Dalglish. But can the player and his boyhood idol gel to propel Liverpool towards the title?
In the summer of 2006 Liverpool signed the volatile pair of Craig Bellamy and Jermaine Pennant to add a bit of nastiness and Premier League guile. Both allegedly ‘boyhood’ Liverpool fans, Rafa signed them on the back of good seasons with Blackburn and Birmingham respectively and both of them failed massively. Bellamy was shipped out after a season and Pennant played less and less until he ended up at Stoke, via Spain, and re-ignited his reputation as an English winger who could run and cross at the same time (Lennon, Walcott, take note).
The problem with the pair of them, and why they couldn’t gel with Benitez, was that they are both maverick, instinctive, players. And not nice mavericks, like Luis Garcia, who probably popped round to Casa Rafa twice a week to cook Paella, but nasty mavericks who want to go out on the pitch every week to prove that they were as good as their early career promised. I’m not here to slate Rafa, but it was clear with both of these players that he filled their heads with so many tactical instructions that their natural games suffered. I can’t be alone in thinking Pennant would’ve flourished under Kenny, who would surely have simply told him to ‘beat the man, put the cross in, help the fullback out when you can.’
With Bellamy the instruction will be even simpler, wherever he plays on the pitch. “Go and terrorise them.” For my money there is no better player in the Premier League when they have a point to prove. His first 12 months at Manchester City showed that when he is played in a fluid front three and allowed to pop up all over the pitch, Bellamy is a royal pain in the harris for any defender, just ask Rio Ferdinand, who he memorably roasted in the derby.
Personally, I’ve got a slight lump in my trousers at the thought of a fluid front three of Bellamy, Kuyt and Suarez at home
With Carroll looking worryingly ineffectual / not bothered / not fit / lazy / whatever at present, it has been clear that we need another striker who can play in a variety of positions and we couldn’t have signed anyone better on a free transfer. Stoke have spent £12 million on Crouch, who dictates a certain style of play, Bellamy can play up front on his own, on either wing where his searing pace and good crossing ability makes him a danger and wide or central in a front three.
The telling thing about last night was that no-one mentioned the baggage of Bellamy, or the need to keep him in check, and this is because of Dalglish. A man manager on a par with Ferguson, he will know exactly what to do with Bellamy and anyone who reckons he will merely be an impact player should think again. Personally, I’ve got a slight lump in my trousers at the thought of a fluid front three of Bellamy, Kuyt and Suarez at home. Can you imagine marking that? Three players who work twice as hard as most, boast pace, trickery, a never say die attitude and are all good finishers.
Mark Bright was moved to say on Twitter this morning that the signing of Bellamy elevates Liverpool to definite title challengers and, though I’m trying to contain myself, I couldn’t agree more. And not just because of his playing ability. The other side of Bellamy, something that Mark Hughes constantly said, is that he is a winner and perfectionist who constantly demands high standards from this around him. I imagine if the player is full of negativity, this is destructive, but with the atmosphere at Anfield and Melwood one of universal happiness, this facet of his personality can only be a good thing.
And boy is he happy. “I’ve grown up with Kenny Dalglish, now to be signed by him is a massive honour. This is an exciting time. When Kenny took over, watching as a fan last season I got the buzz as well and it was great to see Liverpool end the season well. For me, the players they’ve signed this summer, there has been a lot of British which takes me back to when I started watching Liverpool. It looks so familiar to me and to be part of it is such a huge honour. “
Welcome back Craig. Just don’t hit Andy Carroll with your 7 Iron, he’s bigger than you and will probably try and sh*g you with it.
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