Bellamy fight club
Bellamy fight club: Whacking 'Ginge' with a golf club in Portugal... Shearer said he'd knock me out, I said 'pop over'... furious Souness offered to fight me in the gym.
In the history of English football, there are few characters as combustible as Craig Bellamy. Here, in a series of extracts from his extraordinary autobiography, GoodFella, the Wales international recalls some of his most notorious scrapes.
February 2007 — and Bellamy is in Portugal with Liverpool to prepare for a Champions League tie against Barcelona. Manager Rafa Benitez has let the players go out for a meal on the last night.
The whole squad went out. We were supposed to be back by 11pm, but after a couple of drinks, we made a collective decision that we would ignore that deadline.
The evening started to get lively. There was a tradition at Liverpool that new signings had to get up and sing a song in front of the rest of the squad. I’d done mine at the Christmas party at John Aldridge’s bar in Liverpool (I sang You’re Gorgeous to one of the reserve keepers who was a great lad but whose looks were, let’s say, rather rugged) and now it was the turn of a couple of others.
Javier Mascherano had only joined the club a couple of days earlier but he got up and sang some Spanish song. Then a few of the lads decided that John Arne Riise ought to sing, too.
Riise, who was known as Ginge, had ducked out of the Christmas do because he said he had a family commitment in Norway. But someone discovered he had never actually gone to Norway.
The lads set up this mock court where evidence was presented against him and, in the end, he admitted he hadn’t gone to Norway at all. He had to pay the bar bill for the Christmas do as a fine and he agreed he’d do some karaoke the next time we had a party.
That night at Vale do Lobo, I was sitting with Steve Finnan, who was my roommate, Sami Hyypia and Ginge. I told Ginge he had to sing a song. I might have said it a couple of times.
He said he didn’t want to do it. I mentioned it again and he snapped. He got s****y about it. He got up and started shouting.
‘Listen,’ he yelled, ‘I’m not singing and I’ve had enough of you banging on about it.’
Ginge left fairly soon afterwards. But as the evening wore on and I had more to drink, it started eating away at me. At that time, the way I was, I didn’t know how to control my emotions if someone disrespected me in front of the rest of the players. I wasn’t going to let it go, especially after a drink. I am one of the worst people on drink.
After a while, I told Steve Finnan we were going. I told him I wanted to sort it out with Ginge.
‘That ginger f****** p****, he ain’t speaking to me like that,’ I said.
Finny was trying to humour me, like a warder with a madman. We had a shared lounge with bedrooms that were upstairs. Our golf clubs were in the lounge. I’d got one out as I was stewing over what Ginge had done. It was an eight iron. I started taking a few practice swings.
‘Let’s go and see him now,’ I said. Finnan tried to stop me again but I was determined. I knew Ginge was sharing with Daniel Agger so I texted him to ask what room he was in. Daniel was still at the party but he texted me the room number. I marched off to find it. Finny came with me. He had given up trying to stop me by then.
I just wanted to wind Ginge up a bit. He had tried it on with me once or twice in training. We got round to the room and I knocked on the door. There was no answer. I knocked again and still no answer.
I texted Daniel again and made sure it was the right room. He said it was. So I tried the door and it was open. I let myself in and turned the light on. Ginge was in bed. He was facing away from me and covering his eyes with his hands because the lights had been switched on.
I just whacked him across the backside with the club. You couldn’t really call it a swing. It was just a thwack really. Ginge panicked. He curled up in a ball with a blanket.
‘You ever speak to me like that in front of people again,’ I told him, ‘I will wrap this round your head.’
‘Listen, I didn’t mean it like that,’ he said.
‘Yes, you f****** did,’ I barked at him. ‘That’s a couple of times you’ve pulled that stunt on me and it won’t be happening any more.’
I look back at what I did now and I cringe. It was pathetic. It was stupidity of the highest level. It was drunken, bullying behaviour.
As Finny and I were going back to our room, the coach pulled up outside and all the players poured off it and piled into our lounge.
The room got wrecked basically. Sofas were turned upside down, lampshades got knocked off lamps, somebody even chucked a plate at one stage and it split someone’s head open.
The next thing I knew, Finnan was knocking on my door. ‘The Gaffer and Pako (Pako Ayestaran, Benitez’s assistant) are downstairs,’ he said. I went downstairs. Rafa and Pako were sitting on a sofa that they must have had to pull upright themselves.
Rafa, the most ordered, controlling man I knew, surrounded by utter chaos, by a scene that screamed out loss of control.
‘John Arne Riise has just come to my room to say you attacked him with a golf club,’ Rafa said.
‘I wouldn’t say I attacked him, exactly,’ I said. I gave him my version.
They weren’t quite as angry as I thought they would be. They told me I had been stupid, of course. I was already full of remorse.
I told them I would apologise. Rafa looked bemused. It turned out he had had quite a night himself.
He said he had been woken at 4am by a phone call telling him that Jerzy Dudek, who was our reserve keeper by then, was being held at a local police station. Rafa had to go and bail him out.
Shearer said he’d knock me out. I told him to pop round...
April 2005 — and Manchester United have crushed Newcastle 4-1 in the FA Cup semi-final. Bellamy is out on loan at Celtic, but still in contact with his Newcastle team-mates.
We beat Livingston 4-0 away in mid-April and even though I didn’t score, I had a good game. John Hartson got a hat-trick and I set a couple of them up. I was given the man of the match award, but the next week, one of my ex-teammates at Newcastle rang me and said Shearer had been laughing about me.
‘What about your mate?’ he’d said. ‘Celtic batter someone 4-0 and he can’t even get on the scoresheet.’
That was Alan all over. If you didn’t score, it didn’t matter how well you played or how much work you did for the team.
The following weekend, we flew to Ireland for a bit of a break. Chris Sutton, Neil Lennon and I went out to a bar to watch the FA Cup semi-final between Newcastle and Manchester United.
I felt bad for Newcastle. They lost 4-1 and they were never really in it.
Afterwards, Alan did a television interview. He mentioned shortcomings in defence, which made me laugh.
Alan needed to look at himself a bit more. He wasn’t the player he had been and now he was trying to pass the buck. When a player’s time comes, it comes.
Alan had become determined to break Newcastle’s all-time club scoring record, which had been held for nearly 50 years by Jackie Milburn but his goals were drying up and I didn’t think he was offering the team enough in general play to justify his place. He was becoming an obstacle to the club’s progress.
It was sad as I had so much admiration for him as a player and I learned so much from him.
Some of the bitterness I felt towards him over Bobby Robson’s departure welled up inside me. I had seen the semi-final. I had seen how poorly he performed personally. I thought it was wrong for him to do an interview afterwards in those circumstances. If I don’t perform anywhere near my level, I’m certainly not going to talk about what we didn’t do as a team. So I got my phone out and texted him.
‘F****** typical of you,’ I texted. ‘Looking at everyone else yet again. You need to look at yourself instead. Your legs are f****** shot. Concentrate on yourself and let the team take care of itself.’
He replied straight away. ‘If I ever see you in Newcastle again, I’ll knock you out.’
‘I’m back in Newcastle next week,’ I texted back. ‘Pop round and say hello.’
I certainly wasn’t scared of him. His big, hard Al act wasn’t for me. I have seen younger men than me stand up to him. I watched him digging out Lomana LuaLua once and when LuaLua told him to go to the back of the coach and say it to his face, Al didn’t really respond to that.
The texts got out, which helped Newcastle as they were lower mid-table and there was still rumbling about why I was with Celtic. There were Newcastle fans who were agitating for me to be back the next season. But the fallout with the golden boy meant there would be no return.
Souness was furious. He yelled: ‘You and me, in the gym … now!’
October 2004 — and Graeme Souness has replaced Bobby Robson as the manager of Newcastle United. Bellamy is in a tailspin on and off the pitch in the wake of Robson’s departure and also the sale to Bolton of his close friend Gary Speed.
My love for Newcastle ebbed away. I didn’t like the chairman. I had lost Robson, who I thought was the best manager in the world. I had lost Speedo (Gary Speed). My professionalism had come from him. I had watched him, trained with him, enjoyed trying to copy him. I just stopped enjoying it.
Souness did things differently to Robson. He was actually a lot less strict than Robson had been in many ways. He was relaxed about a lot of things off the pitch. He had a great aura about him, too.
Sometimes, he could be a little bit too derogatory about the opposition and to you as well. He could put you down and question you as an individual.
It must have been difficult for someone like him to coach players like me because he was such a good footballer himself. He didn’t join in training with us. I think he stopped that after he had a disagreement with Dwight Yorke during a five-a-side at Blackburn and he left him with a badly gashed shin.
Souness was accused of threatening to break Yorke’s leg. I can believe that. If he’d still been playing, I think I would have got the full treatment in training. He would have had a lot of fun with me. If he could have caught me. Generally, we were at loggerheads but I played my part in us not getting on.
He played me on the wing at Newcastle. He made it clear to me that he didn’t see me as a striker. He called me in and said his idea of a striker was Didier Drogba, big and strong. He wanted Patrick Kluivert and Alan Shearer as his two forwards. He asked me to play wide.
In the middle of October, we played Charlton at The Valley in a live Sky Sunday game and he gave me a chance to play up front with Alan because Kluivert had got injured. I scored six minutes before half-time to put us ahead. Then, midway through the second half, Souness made a substitution and I saw my number come up.
I was furious. They had equalised by then, but the game was open and I thought we could win it.
When I got to the touchline, Souness was staring out at the pitch. I looked over at him and muttered ‘f****** p****’ in his direction. I didn’t exactly say it to him. Not really loud enough for him to hear anyway. But the cameras caught me doing it. I had no right to say it.
Souness didn’t see it or hear it but when he spoke to the journalists after the game, they told him about it. He looked surprised at first, apparently, and then he began to look angry. I don’t blame him, really. I would have been angry, too.
Nothing was said on the journey back to Newcastle but when we went into training on Tuesday, there was a team meeting. Dean Saunders, who was one of Souness’s backroom staff, told me that if Souness had a go at me in the meeting, I should take it on the chin. I didn’t like Saunders, but it was probably good advice. I didn’t take it.
Sure enough, at the meeting Souness started yelling at me. He mentioned a few of the trophies he had won, for a start. And he listed a few of the clubs he had played for. ‘And then someone like you calls me “a f****** p****”,’ he said. ‘I’ll f****** knock you out.’
He was absolutely raging. He came over to where I was sitting and tried to grab me. I pushed his hand away and he lost his balance slightly and stumbled. That made a couple of the other boys laugh, which made Souness even more furious than he was anyway.
‘In the gym now,’ he said. ‘Me and you.’
He was going nuts. ‘What are you on about?’ I said. ‘I’m not going to go in the gym to fight you.’
He didn’t say anything else. He just stormed out.
I apologised later for what I’d said to him at Charlton. I was out of order.
I knew Souness wanted me out and I wanted to go. It was a shame. I do have a lot of respect for him as a manager. He has given a lot to the game — and I still think he has a lot to give even now.
The row with John Carver (Newcastle assistant manager) started when I parked in his car space. I walked past him later that morning and said ‘hiya’; he just walked straight past. I wouldn’t let it go. So by the time we got to the airport, he was at snapping point: we had a shouting match.
People had to keep us apart. So suddenly I convinced myself I was the wronged party. I threw a chair aside so I could argue with him. It nearly hit Shay Given. We ended up wrestling on the floor.
I didn’t know then but Bobby (Robson) was in a press conference on the other side of the screens. I said, ‘I’m going home to see my missus’. Bobby put his arm round me. ‘Walk with me, son,’ he replied.
He asked me about how my kids and missus were. The next thing I knew I was on the plane. I was thinking ‘how the f*** did I get here?’
Mancini sent me home ... for the season!
The atmosphere at Manchester City became tense under Roberto Mancini.
I felt that faith in me was slipping. During a defeat to Hull at the beginning of February, Roberto substituted me.
I went out in Manchester that evening and at the end of the night, I allowed myself to get into a scrape with a United fan… It was nothing serious but it was serious enough that I aggravated my knee injury.
I was out for two weeks. I came back to training and I did some running. Roberto said I would be running the next day, too.
I said I couldn’t do two days solid in a row. He said I had been off for two weeks so I had to. I told him I couldn’t. He called me into his office for a meeting with him, his fitness coach and the club doctor.
‘Is it okay for you to be out for two weeks and think you can decide what you are doing?’ he said.
‘I am sticking to my programme,’ I said.
‘Okay, then, you have been away for two weeks,’ he replied. ‘Now you can go home for the rest of the season. Go on.’
Extracted from GOODFELLA: MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Craig Bellamy, published by Trinity Mirror Sport Media at £18.99. To order a copy at £14.99 (p&p free), call 0844 472 4157.