He may have only been at Ewood Park for one season, but Craig Bellamy was loved by many Rovers fans, including writer Jonathan Secker.
‘One season wonder’ is a phrase used for players that deliver the goods for one season before never repeating the feat, but in the case of Craig Bellamy, his one season at Rovers is probably the greatest single season that I’ve seen for a player that only spent one year at the club.
He may seem an odd choice for my Rovers hero (although please note Shearer and Jansen were covered by others) but following two consecutive season finishes of 15th, Bellamy was the man that made the difference and catapulted Mark Hughes’ Rovers side to a sixth place finish in the 2005/06 season and a UEFA Cup spot – not to mention a League Cup semi-final appearance as well.
Signed on the 7th June 2005 from Newcastle for a reported £5 million, Bellamy joined Rovers in the hope of getting his career back on track after leaving the Geordies under a cloud. His impact was phenomenal, scoring 17 goals in 32 appearances and finishing the season as the club’s player of the year and top goal scorer.
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In the Premier League, he made 27 appearances (22 starts) and scored 13 goals – averaging a goal every 154 minutes. What makes these stats even more impressive is the fact that Bellamy’s Ewood Park career took a while to get started, and in all truth, he was hampered with injuries throughout the season.
Bellamy made his debut at Upton Park as Rovers faced newly promoted West Ham, but Hughes’ side left empty handed after losing 3-1 – what made matters worse was that Bellamy picked up an injury and wouldn’t be seen in a Rovers shirt for another month. It wasn’t until the 22nd October that Bellamy notched his first goal, coming off the bench to score in a 2-0 win at Ewood Park against Birmingham City.
During the period of the 15th February to the 8th April, Bellamy scored eight goals in eight games; including braces against Middlesbrough at home (a 3-2 win for ten-men Rovers) and a 2-2 draw away at Portsmouth (bursting from his own half and finishing with aplomb to put us ahead).
Included within this period of games was the skinning of Phillipe Senderos to set up the only goal of the game for Morten Gamst Pedersen in a 1-0 win over Arsenal (the same Arsenal side that had beaten Real Madrid in the Bernabeu just four days earlier) and a 3-2 defeat to Tottenham (with Bellamy and Sinama-Pongolle on the scoresheet) shown live on Sky Sports, where for me, Rovers gave one of the best performances I have seen when coming away with nothing.
Once the season ended, there was bound to be rumours and links with other clubs. Rovers did all they could to keep hold of Bellamy with Hughes starting talks about him becoming the skipper and trying to remove the £6 million release clause from his contract that unfortunately Liverpool triggered. With Bellamy growing up as a Liverpool supporter, the writing was on the wall for Rovers once the release clause was met.
Bellamy had pace, he could finish and always wanted to play the game at a high tempo. He was demanding, played with a snarl on his face and hated losing. When you think of the Blue and White Lonsdale kit, Bellamy is one of the first faces you picture in it. In his one season with Rovers, he brought the best out of the team and took us to the next level and deserves recognition for this.
As sad as I was to see Bellamy go, it is fair to say his replacement Benni McCarthy didn’t do too bad in his debut season for Rovers.
Thanks for reading – I’m off to watch my 05/06 season review DVD!