Bellamy defends Wales commitment

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The Independent Online

West Ham United's Craig Bellamy has attempted to explain why he has not joined up with the Wales squad for World Cup qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Russia after his initial selection left managers Alan Curbishley and John Toshack in conflict.

Bellamy played just nine games for Hammers last season after his £7m move from Liverpool because of a groin injury that eventually needed surgery.

And he missed the start of the current campaign with hamstring damage before appearing as a 68th-minute substitute and scoring to clinch West Ham's 4-1 win over Blackburn.

He was then called up by Wales boss Toshack but Hammers' chief Curbishley said: "There's no way Craig is fit for international football yet – not after just 20 minutes back."

Now Bellamy has told West Ham's official website: "Me and West Ham and Wales all decided it was in everybody's best interests if I stayed at the club and continued my rehab after the hamstring injury.

"It was a bit tight even before I went on against Blackburn on Saturday and a bit tight, too, since then. Naturally I hate missing two important games for my country but I don't think my commitment to Wales has ever been in question. Hopefully I can get fully fit now and be available for West Ham and also the next round of (World Cup qualifying) matches in October."

Kirk Broadfoot has received a surprise call-up for Scotland as manager George Burley was faced with further withdrawals ahead of the World Cup qualifying double-header against Macedonia and Iceland.

The 24-year-old defender, who can play at full-back or centre-half, could now make his international debut when the Scots open their campaign in Macedonia on Saturday.

Aberdeen goalkeeper Jamie Langfield has also been added to the squad as back-up for Craig Gordon and Allan McGregor after Norwich keeper David Marshall pulled out injured.

Rangers defender David Weir and Birmingham forward Garry O'Connor have also been forced to withdraw.

Burley has been given support from by John Wark who insists his old team-mate is still the right man for the job on the eve of their World Cup qualifying campaign. "He was always the type who wanted to do coaching and learn things at an early age," said Wark. "Even in the first team, he was always listening, and I always thought he would be a coach or a manager.

"He was great at Ipswich, he did a good job at Derby in the circumstances, and what he did in Scotland at Hearts was incredible. As long as he gets them all fit, he has a chance, because he plays the game in the right way."

Kyle Lafferty has been forced to withdraw from the Northern Ireland squad for the opening World Cup qualifier against Slovakia on Saturday because of a back injury.

The 20-year-old Rangers striker met up with the team at their London hotel but is now returning to his club. Manager Nigel Worthington will monitor the situation over the weekend to see if Lafferty will be available to face the Czech Republic at Windsor Park a week from tomorrow.

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