Football: O'Neill decides to keep Bellamy off the plastic

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The Independent Online
CELTIC SUPPORTERS might have to wait to see Craig Bellamy make his debut after his new manager Martin O'Neill expressed his concerns over the plastic pitch at Dunfermline's East End Park.

The Welsh international was expected to go straight into the team for the Scottish Cup fourth-round tie after his move from Newcastle United. But O'Neill, one of the biggest critics of the artificial surfaces, feared it could reignite Bellamy's past injury problems.

"Craig Bellamy will not play on Sunday due to the plastic surface," said the Northern Irishman, who was named Scottish manager of the month for January. "The operations he has had in the past would preclude him from playing on this surface. If all goes well, he will definitely be involved next week against Inverness Caledonian Thistle."

The Celtic manager is not overly concerned about Bellamy coping with the criticism he has received since leaving St James' Park.

"I could turn around and say all the things in the world and then find out he's picking the team here in two weeks - and knowing Craig he will be," O'Neill said. "But on a serious note he seems the type of character not to let it bother him greatly. As expected there are people having their say but you take it with a pinch of salt."

The East End Park pitch is causing O'Neill more concern and he admits it is the worst possible draw his side could have had after knocking Rangers out in the last round. Uefa do not allow top European competition to be played on plastic and O'Neill has questioned why the Scottish Football Association permits its use.

"It's a pitch that's pretty notorious," he said. "It's a difficult surface and tends to put games somewhat in a lottery and the one place after beating Rangers you didn't want to go was to Dunfermline on their pitch.

"But no excuses. We have played there and won before and again we will be positive."

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