September 25, 2009
Craig Bellamy has never been one of the game's sympathetic characters. He is a grandmaster at stealing PR disasters from the jaws of personal victory - see that fist-fight in Sierra Leone when visiting his own charity foundation last summer - and last Sunday followed the usual pattern.
Written off as a bit-part of the Manchester City project, he proved his playing mettle by scoring two exceptionally taken goals and then besmirched himself by lamping an intruder clearly already under the control of Manchester United's security goons. But that was not the only ugliness on show. His dubious - considering the opposition - aeroplane-style goal celebration featured his wing-span on show and with it one of the modern footballer's most prevalent pecadilloes; the all-over arm tattoo.
Where once, during his Newcastle days, it bore the legend "Cameron", the name of one of his three children, his right arm is now completely engraved in an Indian ink tribute to medieval Welsh rebel Owain Glyndwr. It bears resemblance to the gargoyles you can find on any church from that era and must raise the odd eyebrow in the Carrington showers from those not versed in the story of 1402's Battle of Pilleth. Cameron still gets a billing on his dad's arm, he just has to compete these days.
September 3, 2009
During those weeks of the season when we're concentrating on domestic action you'll be able to catch our regular "Premier League Heroes" feature. This week, however, sees international football take centre-stage as World Cup qualifying nears its business end.
One team with hopes just alive of being in South Africa next summer are Ukraine, in Group 6, behind runaway leaders England. When they face Andorra on Saturday, they may well call on the talents of a man who must surely rank as a Premier League zero; Andriy Shevchenko, who last Friday ended his time at Chelsea, an association that finished with much more a whimper than a bang. Contract paid up, "Sheva" rejoined Dynamo Kiev, the club where he once made his name, paying glowing tribute to Roman Abramovich as he went, his exit a mere footnote on a day of constantly breaking transfer news.
He left for no fee where it once took £30m paid to AC Milan to secure his services in the summer of 2006 and augment a Blues team that were looking for three titles in a row. Most, including myself, considered his addition another nail in the rest of the Premier League's coffins. I recall watching his debut for Chelsea in the Community Shield that August. A well-taken strike against Liverpool caused me and a pal to drink up and leave a Toulouse watering hole in resignation that this would be another season of domination for Jose Mourinho's team.