Bellamy surprises Wales with rapid return to fitness

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The Independent Football

Craig Bellamy joined up with the Wales squad yesterday and insisted he could play now if he was asked.

The Wales captain has surprised even his own national coach John Toshack with his rapid recovery from a groin operation carried out last week. But Bellamy has been in training at West Ham and was determined to join up with Wales for their Euro 2008 qualifiers against Cyprus on Saturday and San Marino next Wednesday.

"I am not surprised at all that I am ready to play," he said. "I had the operation on Thursday and was doing training on the bike on Friday back at West Ham. I was running on Saturday and Sunday and have done some much sharper work since then, and I feel fine. I could probably play now if I was asked. I have seen other players come back from the same operation and play very quickly."

Toshack said he was "stunned" by the speed of Bellamy's recovery, but has promised West Ham he will take no chances with his captain. "Injuries like this and operations are supposed to take a few weeks to recover from," Toshack said. "But to find Michael Owen playing days after his operation, amazes me. Now Craig is also back. They had their operations a couple of days apart. But medical science is improving, and if the doctors say he can play at this stage of his recovery, who are we to argue?"

Elsewhere, Keith Gillespie is included in the Northern Ireland squad for the qualifier against Sweden. The winger, who was fined after a confrontation with team-mate George McCartney on the plane as they returned from last month's defeat in Iceland, was included despite nursing a hamstring injury.