Bellamy envisages bright Wales future without him

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The Independent Online

Where next for Wales? Not only did Gary Speed's home reign begin with a demoralising defeat but later Craig Bellamy revealed he will be considering international retirement. Surely a bad day to be burying that sort of bad news.

Except Bellamy does not see the doom in the gloom. In fact, he believes his country is now being better prepared for success than at any time during his Welsh career. The five days before Saturday's Euro 2012 qualifier and the 45 minutes after their first-half capitulation convinced him that Speed's regime can succeed where his immediate predecessors failed.

"For the first time I see a future and I really see the national team being able to do something," Bellamy said. "It has to be perfect off the pitch for you to have a performance on it. We touched it a bit with Mark Hughes, but for the first time in my Welsh history it has been right."

If that was something of a slight on Hughes's reign then it was obviously a huge slur on that of John Toshack. The latter gave way to Speed after losing the first three games of this campaign and in Bellamy's opinion, the "amateur" preparation must bear some blame.

"I spent all my career involved in really highly professionally run clubs, and when I used to come to Wales it was amateur," Bellamy said. "This year isn't as highly run as I've been used to [with Cardiff City in the Championship], but I've come to Wales and found that professional outfit and it has been exceptional."

What Dave Jones, the Cardiff manager, will make of that is also questionable, although Bellamy has revealed when his loan spell runs out at the end of the season he cannot envisage the Bluebirds being able to afford to keep him – even if they do gain promotion. Bellamy believes the next few months will represent a "crossroads" in his career, when he will need to decide whether a return to Manchester City for the final year of his contract is feasible.

"I'll see how I am in the summer," said Bellamy, who has long suffered knee problems. "I'd love to keep going as long as I can, but I'm 31 and had nine operations. The future isn't great for me and I don't like to look too far ahead."

In contrast, Speed has no option. Pointless at the bottom of Group G, the chances of qualification are on the unlikely side of remote and Speed has targeted the 2014 World Cup "as the time where we will be in a place to compete". Bellamy will be 35 by then and feels "he will be in the stand watching these players". Not many in the 69,000 capacity crowd would have agreed as they saw England tear Wales into pieces in that opening period.

"Today wasn't great, obviously, but you have to be realistic," Bellamy said. "We're ranked 116th in the world, they're ranked sixth. So we've got to take the positives. The second-half performance was okay, but the manner of it was more pleasing. It would have been easy to go direct and start punting it to give the crowd something to shout about. But there were a lot of young players that kept trying to get the ball and kept trying to do the right things. That's more important and makes me think there is a future for this team."

Speed has plenty of time to plan. The next qualifier is not until September, when they host Montenegro, although there are Celtic Cup matches against Scotland and Northern Ireland in May. Speed, just two games into his new role, will be keen to have Gareth Bale at his disposal.

"Individuals do make a difference, but as a small country I believe the best chance we have going forward is to be a team," he said.

He will doubtless repeat that to Aaron Ramsey. The 20-year-old suffered a miserable introduction to international captaincy, but denied "trying too hard". "I just couldn't get into it," the Arsenal midfielder said, pointing out how well he had been guarded by Scott Parker. "Our aim is to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil. We are preparing for that and can take a lot from this."

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