FORMER Blackburn Rovers striker Craig Bellamy has announced his retirement from football aged 34.
The well-travelled Cardiff striker said on Thursday that his body “couldn’t take it any more”.
Bellamy’s decision brings to an end a 17-year senior career, concluded with a spell at his home-town club.
The Welsh international scored 17 goals in 32 games during his one season at Ewood Park in the 2005-06 season before he left for Liverpool.
Bellamy joined Cardiff on loan and then permanently to fulfil a dream of playing for them, and the narrative he wanted arrived as City were promoted to the Premier League.
And, even though he was unable to stop them going straight back down in what has turned out to be his last season, he retires with satisfaction.
In an interview given to Wales Online he said: “It’s been on my mind to finish playing for the last couple of years, but this time I’ve had to make a decision. I’ve had to listen to my body.
”I guess over the years I’ve become accustomed to the pain from various injuries, but for the last three to four years I’ve been on anti-inflammatories every day.
”I’m not sure my body will think that’s a wise thing in due course, but it kept me playing for that period.
”However, the time has come to stand aside and say enough. My body can’t take any more.
”When Cardiff got promoted, it was the sense of achievement with my home-town club that meant most to me, rather than being able to play another season in the Premier League. I had performed at that level for 12 years anyway, the goal of getting Cardiff up there meant more to me than actually playing there again myself.
”But I spoke to Malky Mackay (the manager at the time) and he talked me around for one last challenge. I wasn’t sure I could offer too much.”
Bellamy says there have been offers from both England and America, but is now planning on pursuing a coaching career.
The 78-cap Wales international, who started out with Norwich in 1997, added: “I do have lots of business activities to keep me busy and I’m taking my full coaching badges. I’ve got A, B and C, I just need to do the Pro-Licence which will prepare me properly for management.”
Bellamy has not always been regarded as the friendliest of characters during a career that also took in Coventry, Newcastle, Celtic, Blackburn, West Ham, Manchester City and two spells with Liverpool, but he claims the man the fans saw at the end of his time was a truer reflection of his personality.
”I’ve been an angry young man at times. So much of my career was affected by injuries. Not just the well-documented surgery, but the hamstring pulls and other things. Injuries hit me hard and they always seemed to come at key times. Back then I didn’t understand my body as well as I began to do towards the end of my career,” he said.
”But I think that anger I’ve displayed has been channelled into making me a better player. It gave me determination to get through those many injury problems.
”I was always far more at ease with myself as a player during the last couple of years with Cardiff.
”If truth be known, I got little enjoyment for large parts of my career. In hindsight, I needed to reflect more, be proud of what I did. Instead, I set myself unrealistic targets at times.
”But in the last couple of years I’ve been more proud, able to step back, enjoy my accomplishments. Why? Because my mind was in a good place.”
Bellamy retires with 169 career goals, a League Cup and Community Shield won at Liverpool and a Scottish Cup from his time at Celtic.