I have mixed memories of Craig Bellamy’s short term loan spell at Celtic.
He’s not a club favourite, far less a legend or an icon. He wasn’t here long enough to be any of those things, and any chance of it went with his powder-puff display on Black Sunday when he and other big-game players folded the hand and heaped an embarrassment on us.
We made a sincere effort to sign him in the summer window afterwards.
He opted to return to England.
There was speculation for a while that he would return on a permanent deal, but it never came to pass.
He’s a pundit now, and former players who become pundits are either one of two things, and can go one of two ways; they are either smart people who don’t have the stomach for management, and therefore are insightful beyond what a mere broadcast journalist is capable of – see Gary Neville for a sterling example – or they are folk who crave the limelight and just can’t shake off the need to be at the centre of attention.
Chris Sutton is one of those guys, a guy in danger of disappearing up his own backside. He is outspoken in a way that at times is refreshing. Then he reminds you that, actually, he just likes the sound of his own voice. I do find him highly amusing though and he’s infinitely watchable, but I always have to remind myself that he’s going for the shock effect.
It has its merits, just so long as you don’t take it seriously. Craig Gordon really ought not to have jumped at the bait like it was a cross ball.
Robbie Savage, who would be working on a pub door if he hadn’t possessed rudimentary football skills, is of a similar mould; it’s no coincidence that BT Sport employs all three. They know they can’t compete with the analytic skills and mastery of the craft at Sky, so they’ve tailored their appeal to another audience.
And yes, in terms of Scottish football it’s just what was required and I mean that sincerely. I would rather watch one of our games on BT, where the matches and the players and the issues are given a serious airing, than on Sky any day of the week.
I am going to hazard a guess and say that Bellamy is one of those guys who misses being under the floodlights. Reading his comments on Scottish football, and Celtic, you realise at once you’re not dealing with one of the Quiz Kids here.
But the ignorance in his comments over the weekend is quite breathtaking. It’s almost like he was worried the world had forgotten he existed and decided to remind us all in the only way he knows how; screaming for attention, arms flailing.
The ancient wisdom however says, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and erase all doubt.”
He should have kept his gob shut.
Let’s look at his two central claims, both utterly ridiculous.
First he says that Brendan needed to do more than win things in Scotland to rebuild his reputation in England.
As I pointed out last week, Brendan came up here in no need whatsoever of “career saving surgery.” He would have walked into most jobs in the EPL with his eyes shut. He had such offers before coming to Celtic Park.
Bellamy might be right that few in English football care what happens in Scotland – I’ve actually made that sound better than the words he actually used which were that “no-one in England cares ..” – but the people he’s talking about can’t see past what happens in their own overblown league and so would say the same about the competitions in France and Germany and Italy and, to a lesser extent, even Spain. Their self-centredness is legendry.
But no manager anywhere who goes through an entire domestic campaign without losing a single match in the league or the cup has any need to defend his record. That is a monumental achievement which the ignorant in the commentariat might want to play down but which chairmen and chief executives everywhere recognise for what it is; the mark of an A-List manager who can accomplish great things.
It illuminates what he did at Anfield.
It’s evidence that the startling effect he had on that team was not a fluke.
He took a lacklustre Celtic side, signed a handful of players, made a few tactical tweaks and built a footballing juggernaut.
European humbling’s aside, the media down there shouldn’t have failed to notice that English opposition wasn’t able to beat us with the same ease.
The comments about our need for a challenge are where it really becomes difficult to take a thing Bellamy says seriously. The idea that we won’t be competitive in Europe until there’s a “strong Rangers” pushing us on is manifestly preposterous.
First, unless he’s proposing raising the dead the idea is a bust.
But even if you accept Sevco as the same club, it’s about as daft an assertion as you’ll find.
How much harder does he think we could push, for a start? We’ve appointed a top drawer manager, kept our squad intact in spite of the attentions of English suitors for all of our top players – so much for them not paying attention to Scottish football eah? We spend only what we earn, so the idea of going out and bidding for the next big thing is nonsense … so what is it we’re not doing that Bellamy thinks we should be?
And the idea that we need a strong club at Ibrox to make us do anything … where does that stupid suggestion come from?
The wider point is equally dumb; Celtic would be a European superpower if only those at Sevco got their act together.
A “strong Rangers” in the league would, somehow, enable us to compete?
So actually all we need to happen is that Dave King finds a new and wonderful way to scam the SA authorities and a means of laundering the ill-gotten gains through Govan and …. voila! Celtic can therefore bridge the financial gap with even mid-table EPL sides, and actually allow us to go toe-to-toe with PSG and the like.
Really? In who’s crack induced fantasy?
This isn’t Bellamy’s view alone, of course.
There are numerous people in the Scottish media who subscribe to this idea that Celtic will somehow improve if Sevco are pushing us. Improve. On an unbeaten domestic campaign. Which some of them have already labelled “embarrassing.” They want to get their story straight, these people.
Bellamy on the other hand might want to limit his chit-chat to what’s going on around him and not wade into things which reveal his deep-seated ignorance.
Look, BT Sport has gone the low-road in terms of its commentary teams. Fair enough. What you see is what you get. Their coverage of Scottish football happens to be more detailed and encompassing than Sky’s treatment of the same, where we’re clearly just an afterthought … but in hiring such obvious trolls they’re not making it easy to build credibility.
Bellamy has embarrassed himself with these comments.
It’s no surprise that the first media personality to tell him that was Chris Sutton.