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New Wales boss Craig Bellamy out to prove concerns over temperament unfounded

The 44-year-old had a colourful playing career in international football, as well as for the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Newcastle.

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Craig Bellamy is determined to banish the general perception of him as he steps into his first senior management role with Wales.

Bellamy courted controversy on and off the pitch during a colourful playing career that saw him win 78 Wales caps between 1998 and 2013.

The former Wales captain seemed to get into as many scrapes as he scored Premier League goals for the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Newcastle.

But, just days away from his 45th birthday, Bellamy believes coaching experience at Anderlecht and Burnley has prepared him for a four-year Wales deal with the clear ambition of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup and Euro 2028.

“I understand the perception of me,” Bellamy said when being unveiled to the media as Rob Page’s successor.

“Lack of experience and temperament were thrown at me in the past. It will be important to dismiss those concerns in three or four years’ time.

“I put myself under more scrutiny that anyone. I am so determined to be the best human being I can be.

“That drives me – it’s so important to be the best I can be. I’m not the finished article and if I’ve made mistakes I have apologised and learned from them. I want to impact people’s lives in a positive way.”

Craig Bellamy Unveiling – Hensol Castle
Craig Bellamy met the media on Wednesday after being appointed Wales head coach (Barrington Coombs/PA)

Bellamy cut his coaching teeth at the Cardiff academy before joining Vincent Kompany, first in Belgium and then at Burnley.

Two eventful campaigns at Turf Moor saw the Clarets romp to the Championship title with 101 points and then suffer relegation from the Premier League.

Burnley picked up only five wins and 24 points last season and Kompany headed to Bayern Munich in May.

Bellamy stayed at Burnley as interim manager and declined the opportunity to assist new boss Scott Parker as Wales came calling.

“The last three or four months I was happy, but it became clear to me that I needed more,” said Bellamy, who narrowly missed out on the Wales job when Ryan Giggs was appointed in 2018.

“I needed to look for a number-one spot for my progression. I was working with Vincent in that period and then he went to Bayern.

“I was still looking at club positions, but Wales has always been very important to me.

“I was born here and to lead your national team is rare, but I’m grateful to get it as a first opportunity.

“Mark Hughes and Gary Speed (former Wales managers) came to mind and it became clear to me that if this opportunity came I wanted it.

“The more I got into the process the more excited I became.”

Liverpool v Burnley – Premier League – Anfield
Craig Bellamy (left) worked alongside Vincent Kompany at Burnley and Anderlecht (Peter Byrne/PA)

Bellamy never played at a major international tournament and admitted to being envious while watching Wales at Euro 2016, Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup.

His reign will start with a Nations League tie at home to Euro 2024 quarter-finalists Turkey on September 6, opponents he says he has already watched eight times over the past week.

“Being a fan during this period has been great. It has been huge and exciting,” said Bellamy.

“The path has been set for a number of years and that is what we expect now. The FAW system is geared to qualify and to success.

“I have to keep improving the team. We had a knock back in not being involved in these Euros, but hopefully we can go to another World Cup and then a Euros after that. That’s a real motivation.

“I have key principles – hard work, discipline to your craft, respect and being willing to learn.

“You have to be open minded to everyone. Respect to the shirt – can you leave it in a better position than you found it?

“We have to keep that mentality going with that type of attitude. I like pressing and front-foot football.

“The team comes first and we will play with high intensity and become hard to break down.”

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