Bellamy is desperate to see hard work pay off

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The Independent Online

Bellamy's efforts have been restricted by a worrying knee injury which brought fears of a a recurrence of the problem that has plagued him through the last few years of his career. But, even in glimpses, the 26-year-old has proved he is a class act, scoring three times in six appearances before setting up all three Rovers goals in their Carling Cup defeat of Leeds.

The Blackburn manager, Mark Hughes, knows he is yet to see Bellamy's best. But once he gets his fitness back, the former Wales coach feels that the Lancashire outfit will have a genuine Premier League star in their midst. "It is early days but it is great to have Craig at the club," said Hughes.

"He is demanding as a person and a footballer, but that is what makes him such a good player. He spends so much extra time on the training ground, you can hardly get him away from the place.

"We had to pay top dollar but the opportunity of signing a player of Craig's ability was too good to miss. What we need to do now is get him on the pitch on a regular basis."

Bellamy does add genuine class to a team so often derided as the hard cases of the top flight. But after suffering so many injuries throughout his career, it is little wonder he now adopts a cautious approach.

As soon as he felt a problem during the victory over West Brom at the start of the month, Bellamy signalled he needed to leave the field. And although he might have been frustrated at the time, Hughes now accepts it was the right move. "Craig is very aware of the problems he has had in the past, so it is understandable he is a little bit cautious at times and thankfully so," said Hughes.

"Last time he had a little bit of irritation he came off straight away and that was the right thing to do. But I think he feels stronger in himself now. "

The key to Bellamy's fitness is a stringent personal training plan. "It is daily strengthening work," said Hughes. "There is a programme he has to adhere to, which he does very well. It is just a case of getting him out on the pitch. He is desperate to have an impact here."

Hughes now faces the dilemma of whether to recall Bellamy to his starting line-up to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this weekend or stick with Shefki Kuqi, whose muscular frame is like that of James Beattie, who caused Jose Mourinho's men problems on Sunday.

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