August 19, 2010
Craig Bellamy's decision to return "home" to Cardiff City has been hailed as a throwback to the days when big-name players would step down a division to revive the fortunes of a provincial club. Memories of Dave Mackay being persuaded to join Second Division Derby County by Brian Clough in 1968 or Kevin Keegan joining Newcastle United in 1982 have been evoked.
The effect at Cardiff has been immediate. The club shop has done such a roaring trade in No.9 and "Bellamy" shirts that they ran out of both the aforesaid number and the letter "y". Bookies have slashed odds of Cardiff returning to English football's top division for the first time since 1962 as Bellamy himself must accept a level of adulation that has been markedly lacking in his career so far.
Yet talk of footballing fairytales can be countered by the strands of the Bellamy affair that make this very much a modern football story. Item 1 is Bellamy's status as a supposed victim of the 25-man rule, though it is perhaps more pertinent that Roberto Mancini would want rid of the man once called the "gobbiest" player in the game by Sir Bobby Robson whatever rules were in place. That said, talk of "restraint of trade", and even a revival of l'affaire Jean-Marc Bosman began to abound.