When you spend time in Craig Bellamy’s company, two things strike you. The first one is that he’s different.
When you regularly speak to football players and staff in an interview scenario, they kind of start to bleed into each other a little bit. They tend to use the same stock phrases and cover the same ground.
Bellamy doesn’t. He’s very honest, but he also sees things differently. He’s an original thinker, which is rare in a game that tends to chisel young men into the same shapes. The second thing feeds off the first, which is that he loves coaching, but sees it differently. His every waking hour is consumed by it.
Bellamy is never more animated than when you engage him on the problem solving of trying to engineer a win from the sidelines. The same drive that saw him exceed his natural talent by training harder than anyone else has him studying, experimenting and implementing new ideas to try and give his side an edge. On the training pitch, in the transfer market and during matches.
You feel like he will be a great manager because he won’t settle for any less.
Ordinarily, someone like that, with his standing in the game would be out of Cardiff’s reach. Fortunately, in this instance, they have an edge due to his past and affinity with the club. Surely then, at the next available opportunity, you throw him the keys to the kingdom, safe in the knowledge that you’re in good hands and that it will be a hell of a ride.
Sadly not. It instead feels like Bellamy is the open goal that Cardiff may never score.
Cardiff seemed to be trapped in a cycle of risk (Solskjaer, Trollope, Harris), followed by a period of safety (Slade, Warnock, McCarthy), so Bellamy is not the right fit just yet, but will he ever be?
We can’t pretend there’s not baggage. He left the academy under controversial circumstances, political correctness gone mad according to him, but there are always two sides to the story and claims of bullying should always be taken seriously. He does have a temper, but he’s not a maniac like Roy Keane, and he has learnt his lesson the hard way.
The real crux of the matter though is whether Cardiff can offer what Bellamy would want, which is control. Whispers of interference from above aside, Bellamy would want to be able to change things, and not just the team, we’re talking the club as a whole.
Cardiff have become so paranoid and insular over the years that you just can’t imagine that ever happening. They need it though, urgently. They’re at the end of a semi-successful cycle and need a rethink.
They’ve succeeded at times, but also succeeded in wasting enormous sums of money. That wouldn’t happen on Bellamy’s watch. He has no interest in signing a 27-year-old at the peak of his powers with no resale value. He would rather scour the market, sign a 21-year-old and coach them up to that level, before selling them at a profit and doing it all again.
That is how you become a truly sustainable, modern club. It would take time though, and patience. Bellamy would get more than most, but Cardiff fans are notoriously fickle and impatient. He knows this and he also knows that what he would need is not currently on offer.
Will it ever be? Possibly not. For now, it’s Mick’s way and we’re all right behind him, but who knows what happens in six months and beyond. I fear that Cardiff’s chances of ever landing Bellamy are already shrinking though because he is going places, with or without them.