Ahead of Cardiff City’s hugely anticipated match against Manchester United, many eyes in the Welsh capital will, as usual, be on local hero Craig Bellamy. The former Wales international still has the power to make a serious impact on any match, though at times it’s difficult to see exactly why he is so important to the team as his career is surely nearing its end.
For many fans, Bellamy embodies the spirit of Cardiff as both a working and footballing city. As the only Welshman in the club’s first team squad, he acts as an important reminder that local players can still make it in the increasingly foreign Premiership. From a distinctly working class background and with a bluntness and honesty rarely found in football, the journeyman forward has not enjoyed the numerous championships of Ryan Giggs at Manchester United or the glamour that now surrounds Gareth Bale at Real Madrid.
It is also worth remembering how timely his return to Cardiff was; at a time when fan support was severely tested by Vincent Tan’s extremely controversial rebrand, Bellamy was one of the first signings of summer 2012. After having moved to a new stadium and seen their kit and crest taken away, having such a recognisable and beloved face in the red shirt helped reassure the fans, at least a little. Seemingly a changed man having undergone counselling after suffering the loss of close friend Gary Speed and the gradual breakdown of his marriage, Bellamy was surprisingly the voice of reason in the capital. On the pitch, however, he has retained the same passion and intensity that has defined his career, something Cardiff fans will be glad for.
Despite his well-documented struggles with knee injuries, which have undoubtedly taken away much of his formerly frightening pace, the forward still seems to arrive in the right place to link up play. Now rarely a scorer, his deliveries with crosses and set pieces still pose a serious threat; Cardiff have scored more goals in the Premiership from set plays than any other team in the league. As one of the greatest Welsh players of all time, and preparing to face former Wales teammate Giggs, who looks likely to start on the weekend, Craig Bellamy must surely be relishing the opportunity to play in such a monumental fixture for his hometown club.