From the golf club wielded at John Arne Riise while at Liverpool to the inaccurate recent claims that he went on strike when West Ham refused to sell him, Craig Bellamy has the kind of history which, as he so impressively put it yesterday, would make the appropriate title for his biography 'Don't Google Me.'
"I don't think I'll ever get away from it," he said of his reputation, as Manchester City paraded him as their player. Even the Welshman's price tag is a point of contention – West Ham swear it was £14m, City put it at £10m. But Bellamy is not the wild individual he once was – Google him and you'll also find the fund-raising Craig Bellamy Foundation - and though tonight's opponents Newcastle United are the only club with whom he has only stayed more than two years since leaving Norwich as a youngster, he insisted that for the past few years at West Ham he has been "in a good place" and he meant that metaphorically as well as literally.
Bellamy's determination to leave West Ham– Tottenham were his first choice but City outbid them – were the changing financial landscape at Upton Park, which deprived him of the promise of a top six challenge. "When I left Liverpool [in 2007] my aim was to get into the top six and West Ham signed a lot of players and had a lot of money," Bellamy said. "They've had problems since then obviously. The situation's changed with the Icelandic banks and financially they are not able to buy the players they once were."
East London, Bellamy added, was the place where he intended to run out his career and become a fans' legend. Adopting the persona of an old stager looking for his swansong, he said that City is the place where he sees that happening now. "When I retire and I see City go on and win Champions Leagues I'll know deep down I was a part of that, from the early stages. That will give me great satisfaction," he said. "No pressure on the manager obviously," was his aside. "Don't worry, there's plenty around already' quipped Mark Hughes, who awoke yesterday to a headline castigating him for not fining Robinho for his moonlit flit from their Tenerife training camp. Robinho has not been fined yet but he will, as City have always intended, when the legalities of the club's disciplinary procedures are dealt with.
Bellamy has quickly latched onto the notion of 'project' as City's new recruits call Sheikh Mansour's with robotic regularity but he did his manager a favour with his impressive demands that the club be given time to build on the top six finish he believes they are capable of this season. "Look, I've heard things said about Chelsea and this is similar situation to them but it's not," he said. "Chelsea were a champions league team. They were established right at the top. City are not. They're a very good Premier League team which they have been for a number of years but our job now is to establish ourselves in the top six, then take the next step which with the financial backing which, with the club's going to have, can happen."
Bellamy is likely to take his place at the head of Hughes' front line tonight and the other new signing flanking him yesterday – £14m Nigel de Jong – may play defensive midfield, with his former Hamburg teammate Vincent Kompany behind him at centre back. With some volition Hughes pinpointed Bellamy's chippy, abrasive way of going about things as precisely the quality that the side have been needing all season. "You ask another Premier League manager what his dressing room is like and he'll probably say it's quiet, it's not like our day," Hughes said. "But [the stimulus] can't always come from myself or the coaches. There needs to be a little bit of self regulation and… players like Craig will say it as they see it. He'll make his point."
Bellamy, who was told by Hughes before he signed that would be first choice striker, said he was going to enjoy himself before the Arabs signed better players. "My aim is to establish and hopefully hang in when these new players come up - and if they need someone to clean their boots I'll be doing that as well. That's all I'm looking at the moment." He wasn't talking about Roque Santa Cruz, whom Hughes also has in his sights.