Craig Bellamy backs Gordon Strachan to lead Scotland to international resurrection


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The Independent Football

Wales striker Craig Bellamy has backed his former boss Gordon Strachan to lead Scotland on an international resurrection.

The Cardiff forward had a six-month spell in Glasgow working under the new Dark Blues manager in 2005 while he was in charge at Celtic.

But Bellamy's return to the city last night saw him heap frustration on his old mentor as Strachan's first competitive game since replacing Craig Levein ended in a 2-1 defeat.

The World Cup qualifying loss kills off any hopes the Tartan Army had of reaching Brazil next summer with Scotland now bottom of Group A on just two points from their first five games.

But Bellamy believes that given time, Strachan can rebuild Scotland's shattered international reputation.

He said: "I have lived up here, I have played here. I know how harsh the environment is for football. And I know how harsh (the press) are.

"He's gonna have to have thick skin - which he does. He's managed an incredible football club like Celtic. (the press) will go for him but he will be prepared.

"For me, as a coach, he made probably one of the biggest impressions on my career, on how to play, how to move. I really learned how to play football under him.

"I owe Gordon Strachan a hell of a lot. I personally think he is the best Scottish manager out there who was available. I'm sure (Scotland) will do well with him."

Scotland struck first at Hampden through Blackburn defender Grant Hanley but even without 25-goal Tottenham forward Gareth Bale, who limped off at half-time, Wales were able to mount a fightback.

Aaron Ramsay smashed home a powerful penalty after Scotland winger Robert Snodgrass had brought down Chris Gunter in the box.

It was the second time the Norwich wideman had collided with the Wales full-back and his spot-kick blunder earned him a second yellow.

With a man advantage, Chris Coleman's men made the most of the extra room in midfield to work the ball to Andy King and he swept in a fantastic cross for Hal Robson-Kanu to nod home a second for the visitors.

Wales - still seven points behind joint group leaders Belgium and Croatia - spent the first 25 minutes knocking the ball about with such style that the 39,000-strong crowd could have been forgiven for mistaking their red shirts for those of world champions Spain.

Scotland gradually gained a foothold but were punished following Snodgrass' dismissal.

For Bellamy, though, the display hallmarked the passing qualities first instilled in them by the late Gary Speed, and reminded him of the night back in September 2011 when the Dragons pushed England close in London, only to lose 1-0.

He said: "I'm proud of the team today. This was like Wembley. You don't come to grounds like this and get it easy. This is Scotland. Alright, they don't have Kenny Dalgleish, they don't have Graeme Souness any more. But this is still a good Scotland team.

"I know Gordon Strachan, I was fortunate to play under him, and he is a top manager.

"But they came up against a good team. A team that got back to winning five in a row, that was the most improved in the world only a year and a half ago - we showed that today.

"Baley is immense but we have got such good footballers. We had Joe Allan missing, who fits into that mode as well.

"We have gone this way with our football for the last couple of years, we have been left a legacy by an incredible human being and against Scotland, we followed that through, which made me even more proud.

"We represent him (Speed) every time we play. His ideas, how we go about our football, that was his philosophy and we stuck to that at Hampden. It's one of the proudest I've ever been in a Wales shirt."

A late red card for Ramsay means he will now miss Tuesday's home match with Croatia.

His stoppage-time dismissal for tugging down James McArthur as the Wigan man set himself to race through on Boaz Myhill's goal came after the Arsenal midfielder needlessly gave away possession from a Wales free-kick.

But Bellamy refused to slate his team-mate and, in fact, praised him for sacrificing himself for the sake of the team.

He said: "I don't need to say anything to Aaron. He's one of my mates. I love him more than anyone. I'm his biggest fan.

"It was just one of those ones. You know what though, he was brave enough to get on it. Ok, we are going to miss him but his display was more than that. That was what Rambo was all about."