Bellamy rises to his new role as hometown hero
Cardiff City 4 Doncaster 0
Monday 23 August 2010
The next time Craig Bellamy dares to venture outside his house he will discover that he's wrong – not every living being in his city is so enthralled with Cardiff's biggest hero. His manager Dave Jones confessed that his horse is partial to taking his morning constitutional "right outside Craig's front gate".
It was a surreal admission after an afternoon straight out of the Bluebirds' most extraordinary fantasy. The story goes like this. A few years ago, Jones put in an offer on the most sought-after property in St Brides, the exclusive village just outside the capital. Yet he was gazumped. By a certain Mr Bellamy.
"I had to move to the other side of the hill," said the feisty Liverpudlian, who is keen on equestrianism. "So since then, I raise my Union Jack, take my horse out for a trot, and make sure he goes right outside Craig's front gate."
So much for the tale doing the rounds that Jones lives next door to Bellamy, or that the pair negotiated the summer's most staggering deal over the back wall. But then, Cardiff believe there are plenty of myths swirling around the 12-month loan. The one they are most bemused about is that which says some unwritten rule is being broken by Manchester City paying the bulk of Bellamy's £90,000-a-week salary. "Erm, that's how loans invariably work when players go to clubs lower down the divisions," Jones said.
He is right, they do. But what has shocked many is the scale of the Sheikh Mansour subsidy. And the 31-year-old's performance against Doncaster – and his 35-yard free-kick belter, in particular – will only cause the tongues to wag ever more furiously.
Not that Bellamy is worried. He has his own problems. While Cardiff used to be his haven, now it is threatening to turn into his prison. "Playing for my hometown club is a dream come true," he said. "But I've had a bit of a shock. This was the one place where I always felt I had a private life, where I could go out and not be bothered. I didn't have that in London, Manchester, Glasgow... but I had it here. Not this last week. I haven't left home other than to go training, and I never thought that would happen here. I've got to adjust to living here. But when you're surrounded by your own people it doesn't half help."
It would be nice to assure Bellamy it will now calm down after all the hype of his debut; yet it would also be misleading. For the continued mayhem he only has himself to blame after a stunning display, during which he first had to conquer his nerves before the unequal Doncaster resistance.
Bellamy admitted he felt "the tension like you wouldn't believe" and only a talking-to from Jones beforehand – and, interestingly, a reminder during the game as well – convinced him he did not have to win it on his own. "I'm not going to single-handedly take this club up," Bellamy said. "I'm not that good a player. I saw that there are a lot of players here who can score goals from nothing, and change a game."
Chris Burke provided the brunt of the evidence, the substitute appearing on the half-hour mark, on the flank opposite Bellamy, to destroy what had looked realistic Doncaster hopes. And as soon as Bellamy was released from the burden, he began to look like the Premier League player he still should be. He set up the first of Jay Bothroyd's double and, with a 70-yard pass he was honest enough to call speculative, put Burke through for his deserved goal. Then he showered the fairy tale in tinsel, his thunderous free-kick cueing delirium – in the stands and the boardroom.
"We've already seen the benefits – huge sales of replica shirts, extra season-ticket sales, and a home sell-out for Doncaster," Jones crooned. "With all respect, you wouldn't expect that to happen. And still we're being criticised from bringing him here. But we don't care. Craig rose to the occasion and made everyone rise to the occasion. That's what special players do." Now, if only Jones would tell Dobbin that.
Cardiff City 4-4-2: Marshall; McNaughton (Naylor, 18), Hudson, Gyepes, Matthews; Whittingham, Olofinjana, Drinkwater, Bellamy (Koumas, 87); Chopra (Burke, 32), Bothroyd. Substitutes not used Darlow (gk), Chambers, Adebola, Thornhill.
Doncaster 4-1-4-1: Sullivan; O'Connor, Thomas, Lockwood, Friend (Dumbuya, 80); Stock; Coppinger, M Woods, Gillette (Brooker, 60) Mason, (Shiels (80); Sharp. Substitutes not used G Woods (gk), Wilson, Hird, Fairhurst.
Man of the match Burke.
Possession Cardiff City 51% Doncaster 49%
Shots on target Cardiff 8, Doncaster 3.
Referee N Swarbrick......... Attendance 24,207.
Match rating 8/10.
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