Football: Souness: It was Bellamy or me

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The Independent Online
GRAEME SOUNESS said yesterday he would have lost the respect of Newcastle's players and effectively ended his managerial career had he not exiled Craig Bellamy to Celtic following the midfielder's accusation that his manager was a "liar".

"I'm experienced enough to know that if I'd been seen to be weak there was no future for me with the players in the Newcastle dressing-room or [in] any job that I go [to] after Newcastle, so I was put in an extremely difficult position," Souness said.

The 25-year-old Bellamy completed a loan move to Parkhead until the end of the season on Monday, after rejecting the chance to join Birmingham City in a pounds 6m permanent transfer, and later suggested that he could still have a future on Tyneside.

But Souness, who said last week that Bellamy would never play for Newcastle again as long as he remained in charge, insists nothing will change. "I stand by everything I said," the Scot affirmed. "I'm like anybody else - there are certain things you can forgive and some things you can forget."

Souness also criticised Bellamy's goalscoring record, saying: "In his time in senior football he's averaged 9.3 goals per season. Half of those were not in the top flight. We need two strikers near 20 goals. We can't rely on Alan Shearer all the time."

The loan deal means the former Coventry striker remains a Newcastle player and could return to St James' Park in May, although Celtic have an option to make the move permanent. That means the row, which reached boiling point when the Welsh international called his manager a liar, is not yet closed.