Posted on Monday, 10th December 2012 by admin
When Celtic signed Craig Bellamy on loan from Newcastle at the end of January 2005, it was an attempt to breathe new life into a team which was finding it difficult to adjust to the departure of Henrik Larsson. Even though Celtic had started season 2004-05 well, the team flopped in the Champions League and two defeats by Rangers had put them top of the league and us out of the league cup.
Bellamy’s debut came against Rangers, and sadly he didn’t have the impact we all wanted, as he missed a good chance in a 2-0 defeat which was highlighted by some awful goalkeeping from Rab Douglas. He scored his first goal against Clyde in the Scottish Cup and turned in his first really outstanding display in a 3-1 win over Hibs, which he marked with both a brilliant solo goal, and an argument with Gary Caldwell.
That performance against Hibs lit the flame for both Bellamy and Celtic, and he was out standing in a 6-0 win over Dunfermline, got the opening goal in a win at Inverness and scored a brilliant hat-trick in a 3-2 thriller at Tannadice, in what was probably the best Celtic your correspondent has attended.
However, the team wasted their good work in a 2-0 defeat to Hearts, although Bellamy helped gain revenge in the 2-1 Scottish Cup semi-final with the vital second goal. The league race remained nip and tuck between Celtic and Rangers until we went to Ibrox with five games to go and a two point lead. In that game Bellamy and Celtic turned in a terrific performance, as Petrov and then Bellamy with an outstanding solo goal put Celtic 2-0 at half-time. Then came the moment which perhaps the season, as Bellamy was forced off with an injury. His replacement Craig Beattie missed two sitters but Celtic held on for a 2-1 win and surely the league title was Parkhead bound, right?
Bellamy was missing for Celtic’s next game, and it showed as a Hibs team inspired by Scott Brown won 3-1 at Parkhead to blow the title race wide open. He was back in the team for a nerve-shredding 2-1 win at Tynecastle which set Celtic up for our final game of the season at Motherwell, knowing that a win would give us the title. What happened that day has been gone over many times before, and sadly Bellamy was amongst the culprits missing great chances as Celtic ultimately threw the league title away. A slight consolation was achieved a week later as Celtic won a dour Scottish Cup final 1-0 against Dundee United, in manager Martin O’Neill’s last game in charge. Bellamy turned in a man of the match performance. Sadly this was also Bellamy’s final appearences in the Hoops, as he eventually signed for Blackburn. Since leaving Celtic Bellamy has played for five different clubs, and is currently in a second spell at Cardiff. He has been linked with a return to Celtic on numerous occasions but nothing ever materialised. He has also became just as known for his ‘disputes’ on the field as for his undeniable talent.
For this writer, the signing of Craig Bellamy was a gamble that ultimately failed, despite the fact he was utterly brilliant for Celtic. He was brought in to win Celtic the league, and in the end this didn’t happen. A similar thing happened with the next high-profile loan signing Celtic made – Robbie Keane. Despite scoring lots of goals his time will mostly be remembered for the embarrassing 2-0 Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Ross County. Perhaps Celtic are better when all the parts fit together, rather than when players are parachuted in to help salvage a season. If Celtic had hung on to win the league Bellamy would have gone down as bona fide cult hero. As it is, he will remembered for playing in a team which lost a league title in injury time, and helping to win a Scottish Cup. He really deserves more than that, as he was a truly great player in the short time he was at Celtic.