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Page last updated at 22:12 GMT, Saturday, 21 August 2010 23:12 UK

Craig Bellamy cements Cardiff City love affair

Craig Bellamy celebrates his first Cardiff goal on his club debut
Craig Bellamy celebrates his first goal for Cardiff City on his debut for the club

By Peter Shuttleworth
BBC Sport Wales

Cardiff City fans thought they had seen everything at their football club, but then a genuine world-class player with an estimated £10m transfer value turns out for them.

No disrespect but a Doncaster Rovers fixture has never been so attractive or high-profile.

Home-coming hero Craig Bellamy had no welcoming committee at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday, as the Wales captain arrived at noon through a side door as queues gathered at the ticket office to witness this for themselves.

For most City supporters only seeing would be believing that a player of Bellamy's stature and class would actually grace the royal blue of Cardiff.

The club's new modern-day hero "came home" on an already emotional day as Cardiff said goodbye to legendary striker Brian Clark.

The man most fondly remembered for scoring the winner against Real Madrid in a European Cup Winners' Cup quarter-final in 1971 died recently after a long illness.

Incredible day delights Bellamy

The home faithful acknowledged Clark's place in Cardiff folklore - scoring in a victory that only ranks behind their 1927 FA Cup win in the club's finest hours - with a pre-match minute's applause.

As the applause faded, the roar rang out from those supporters who hope their new striker can emulate the heroics of Clark and fire Cardiff into the Premier League and earn himself similar iconic status in the Welsh capital.

The prodigal son's arrival at Cardiff seems a match made in footballing heaven - or hell - given Bellamy is a player opposing fans love to hate.

He has also joined a club disliked by most of their Championship rivals for daring to pull off such a transfer coup just months after surviving two separate winding-up orders.

There is also the issue that Manchester City are funding a large part of Bellamy's enormous pay packet - but as Doncaster boss Sean O'Driscoll acknowledged: "If he had relatives from Doncaster, I'd have tried to sign him."

O'Driscoll has no hard feelings towards Bellamy's controversial move to Cardiff even though the striker put Rovers ruthlessly to the sword as he set up two and scored a stunning late free-kick in a dream debut in a 4-0 triumph.

Cardiff strikers Jay Bothroyd and Craig Bellamy bond over goals
Cardiff strikers Jay Bothroyd and Craig Bellamy bond over goals

When Bellamy cut inside from his wide left berth after 90 seconds, his first touch of a ball in a Cardiff shirt was drowned by a wave of adoring applause - despite the eventual miss-placed ball harmlessly going nowhere.

And he needed less than five minutes for a crowd request to perform the traditional Cardiff initiation of the Ayatollah - a head-slapping ritual that proves you are part of the Cardiff 'family'.

Since Bellamy last played a club game in his homeland - back in August 1998 in a goal-scoring display for Norwich against Swansea in a 1-1 draw - the journeys both player and Cardiff have travelled seem barely credible.

The player has courted as many headlines for his behaviour as he has for his on-the-field heroics.

Cardiff, meanwhile, have gone from fourth division nobodies to Premier League hopefuls, with more dramas than a reality TV show.

Controversial owners, new stadium and training facilities, six High Court appearances, three Wembley appearances, two play-off finals, superstar signings Robbie Fowler and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, £30m debts and latterly a Malaysian take-over.

But Bellamy - whose cumulative £45m transfer fees are inside the all-time British top 15 - gracing the Cardiff City Stadium is jaw-dropping even for Cardiff's standards.

And joking with the gathered media, he acknowledged afterwards: "I was more worried about this game than I was about any game in my career.

"I've got all that experience but it counted for nothing with all the tension and nerves.

606: DEBATE
GLAMorgan

"This has been one of the most emotional weeks I have ever had in football.

"The tension hit me Thursday, I felt tension like you wouldn't believe and the manager [Cardiff boss Dave Jones] saw it and pulled me to one side and told me to relax and play my own game. He told me I haven't got to score a hat-trick and less is best.

"So after the week I've had, to finish it off like I did I can't really describe how much this means to me.

"And yeah I've got a goal and a couple of assists but I think playing-wise I can do miles better. But I expected that as I haven't played a lot of football recently."

Bellamy assisted for Jay Bothroyd's opener against Doncaster but needed the confidence of an exquisite "fluke" to calm his nerves.

His 60-yard ball from his own corner flag set Chris Burke free to settle the game with Cardiff's third and ease Bellamy's own anxiety.

And his 35-yard free-kick pile-driver ensured Bellamy's Cardiff debut was an 'I was there' moment in Welsh sport. We will gloss over the yellow card for dissent just this once.

But the goal signalled the intention of the happy couple that both player and club mean business.



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see also
Cardiff 4-0 Doncaster
21 Aug 10 |  Championship
Bellamy to lead Cardiff on debut
20 Aug 10 |  Cardiff
Bellamy birthday present for Jones
18 Aug 10 |  Cardiff
Bellamy handed Premier challenge
18 Aug 10 |  Cardiff
Bellamy moves to Cardiff on loan
17 Aug 10 |  Cardiff
Cardiff great Clark dies aged 67
10 Aug 10 |  Cardiff
Bellamy free to train at Cardiff
16 Aug 10 |  Cardiff
I could quit football - Bellamy
10 Aug 10 |  Man City
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales


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