Bellamy is perfect, says Benitez after dispute with Newcastle

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The Independent Football

The latest controversy between Craig Bellamy and Newcastle United generated contrasting character references for the Liverpool striker yesterday as Terry McDermott branded him "a little upstart" and Rafael Benitez insisted he was a reformed player.

Bellamy has impressed behind the scenes at Anfield since his £6m move from Blackburn in the summer but became embroiled in an argument with Newcastle coach McDermott after Liverpool's 2-0 win over his former club on Wednesday. The pair, who worked together at Newcastle before the striker's falling-out with the then manager Graeme Souness, were involved in a dispute in the Anfield tunnel as McDermott contested two refused penalty claims for his side with the referee Mark Halsey and Bellamy, subject to continuous taunts and a bottle of water thrown from the travelling support, took issue.

"I was talking to the referee at the edge of the tunnel when Bellamy appeared on the scene and suddenly started calling me names," McDermott claimed yesterday. "I thought he was just joking... but he kept on calling me names and that is when it all kicked off. I had my say and when he got to the top of the stairs, he started shouting at me again. But of course he had security guys around him.

"I take exception to little upstarts like him. When he was at Newcastle he thought he was a big cheese. Everywhere he has been, he has been in bother - and it is all starting again at Liverpool."

That is not the view of Benitez who, before sanctioning his move from Ewood Park, spoke with the 27-year-old over his past reputation. "They were shouting for a few seconds and, for me, Craig is not guilty," the Spaniard said. "I have found him to be focused, mature and a very good example to the rest of the players. He understands this is his last opportunity at a big club and his behaviour has been perfect."

Liverpool have taken legal advice after being caught up in the BBC Panorama programme's investigation into football corruption. The agent Peter Harrison was filmed touting Middlesbrough's England youth player, Nathan Porritt, to an Anfield official. The club have denied breaching regulations governing approaches to players.