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Monday, 15 April, 2002, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
Bellamy's transformation
Craig Bellamy has taken his place among English football's elite
Bellamy (centre) can stand tall among his peers
BBC Sport Online's John May charts the progress of Craig Bellamy.

Craig Bellamy's award of the PFA's Young Player of the Year is a testament to the wise old head of Bobby Robson.

The canny Newcastle manager has used all his influence and know-how to transform a player who could have been an expensive gamble into one of the hottest young properties in the Premiership.

Along the way, he has had to contend with off-field problems, and the risk of paying out a lot of money for a player who had potential but was unproven at Premiership level.

It's nice to be missed but I would have preferred it if Newcastle could still have been in contention for the title
Craig Bellamy

Bellamy belatedly arrived at St James' Park with the price tags of two 6m moves hanging heavily around his neck.

Robson was keen to sign Bellamy from Norwich at the beginning of last season but was forced to hold fire while Duncan Ferguson pondered his future.

While Ferguson hedged and Robson delayed, then Coventry boss Gordon Strachan nipped in to take him to Highfield Road for 6.5m.

But a tally of just six goals in 34 games for the Sky Blues marked a small return on the hefty investement as Coventry's long tenure in the top-flight ended.

Coventry's relegation provided Robson with an opening and he took it, paying out 6m for the young Welshman.

Unlike Strachan, Robson got his reward from Bellamy, whose contribution to Newcastle's season was recognised by his fellow professionals with the award.

Robson saw the possibilites in pairing Bellamy's searing pace with the experience and power of the former England captain.

The wily Robson happily gave Bellamy his head on the pitch, and was repaid handsomely, even if it was not entirely a no-risk policy.

Craig Bellamy and Alan Shearer have struck up a formidable partnership for Newcastle
Bellamy and Shearer have struck up a powerful partnership for Newcastle

Bellamy became an instant crowd favourite by opening his Newcastle account against Sunderland at St James' Park.

But his Welsh fire has seen him tread a disciplinary tightrope at times this season.

Unluckily dismissed at Arsenal earlier in the campaign, Bellamy collected nine yellow cards and was one booking away from a suspension before his current injury which took him past the amnesty date for this season.

Robson has also had to contend with some indiscipline off the field from Bellamy.

Bellamy was one of several Newcastle players sent home from a mid-season training camp in Spain for a breach of club discipline.

He was also cautioned by police following an incident in a Newcastle night-club.

But perhaps Bellamy can count himself fortunate in having a manager like Robson who, while enforcing discipline, is experienced enough to understand some of the excesses of youth.

While Shearer and Bellamy have complemented each other this season, the importance of Bellamy to Newcastle's title challenge can be gauged by the way it has tailed off in his absence.

The Magpies' win at Derby was their second in the eight games since Bellamy sustained his knee injury.

I had a tough time last year being relegated and this seems a million miles away a year later to be here receiving this trophy
Craig Bellamy

That was not lost on Bellamy who said: "It's nice to be missed but I would have preferred it if Newcastle could still have been in contention for the tile, but that's football.

"We've had a good season and it's better than we could have imagined.

"We want to get into Europe and we've got a great chance of getting into the Champions League."

Despite his short and unhappy spell at Coventry, Bellamy has never doubted his own ability.

He said: "You don't become a bad player overnight. I had a tough time last year being relegated and this seems a million miles away a year later to be here receiving this trophy.

"Now I've got a great chance of playing Champions League football next year. It's all happened so quickly but it's what I want."

Is Ruud van Nistelrooy the right choice?



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