‘Never go back’, the old football adage. Any footballer who leaves a club would be foolish to return. He risks tarnishing the fans’ previous memories of him, admitting he made a mistake in leaving or feels his days as a professional footballer are numbered and that he is just living off past glories by returning. Many player returns, whilst not ending up as flops, can never truly rediscover the heights of their first spell at a club.
As a Liverpool fan nothing would give me greater pleasure than seeing Robbie Fowler being able to return to Anfield for a third time and play the way he did in the mid-90s. I’m sure many an Arsenal fan would say the same about Thierry Henry, a Manchester United fan about David Beckham, or, in my girlfriend’s case, an Aston Villa fan about Thomas Hitzlsperger. Sadly for the fans nine times out of ten that is never going to happen. There is no room for sentiment in football.
Even in fiction there isn’t always the fairytale ending. Karl Fletcher, star of Sky’s football series Dream Team, had three spells at Harchester United. Successful in his first two spells, an ageing Fletcher flopped in his third spell and was killed off in an attempt to boost ratings.
But for every Robbie Keane there’s a Juninho, for every Pascal Chimbonda there’s a Jermain Defoe.
Middlesbrough fan favourite Juninho enjoyed three separate spells at the club.
Despite the saying more and more footballers seem to be returning to play at former clubs, some of them doing surprisingly well.
Barcelona spent £35m to re-sign Cesc Fabregas this summer, bringing his 8 year spell at Arsenal to an end.It brought to an end two years of failed attempts by the Catalan Giants to bring the Spaniard home. Fabregas had been in the Barcelona Youth Team before Arsene Wenger brought him to England. He was just 15, yet to make a single senior appearance for the Barca first team.
Whilst Cesc Fabregas may have been one of the bigger names to recently return to a former club, one of the more intriguing transfer deals on this summer saw Craig Bellamy return to Liverpool.
After swapping Liverpool for West Ham United in Summer 2007, Craig Bellamy returned to Anfield on August 31st 2011, becoming Kenny Dalglish’s seventh and final summer signing. Not quite the same heights as the return of the King (Dalglish), the return of God (Fowler), the return of the Tash (Rush) or the return of the Jedi, but still a move that could have a huge say on Liverpool’s Champions League chances this season.
Craig Bellamy’s first spell at Liverpool only lasted a season when Rafael Benitez signed him in 2006. He started well with a debut goal against Maccabi Haifa but his year at the club is largely remembered as a disappointment.
Although his best years are behind him there isn’t the same pressure on Bellamy to succeed. Dalglish has signed him on a free transfer as backup to first choice strikers Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll, alongside Dirk Kuyt.
His first spell at Anfield is mainly remembered for his infamous drunken attack, with a golf club, on team mate John Arne Riise. This earned him the nickname ‘the nutter with a putter”. Both players scored in the next game, securing Liverpool a famous European away victory against Barcelona, but Bellamy’s days at Liverpool were numbered. He was sold in the summer to make space for then record signing Fernando Torres. His lone season at the club can be summed up as underwhelming at best.
Bellamy celebrating his goal at the Nou Camp.
Yet Bellamy, a boyhood Liverpool fan, has always been popular amongst Liverpool fans as well as his teammates. He knows what the Liverpool is about and would give anything to do well for the club. You just need to listen to him talking about Liverpool to see his passion for the club. Like all of us, whatever team we support, he is a fan.
Both Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have publically said in the press how glad they are that Craig Bellamy has returned. Bellamy’s work rate and passion has always been admired, admittedly sometimes getting him into trouble. He is a determined character who has shown at Manchester City, before being frozen out by Roberto Mancini, how good a player he really is. Not only does he have unfinished business at Anfield but he has a point to prove to Mancini.
Bellamy on loan at his home club Cardiff City last year. He was banished to train with the youth team on his return to the Etihad Stadium.
Craig Bellamy is not the first to return to Anfield. Bellamy’s new manager, Kenny Dalglish, having signed for Liverpool in 1977 and becoming player-manager in 1985, left in 1991, only to be brought back to the club as Academy Ambassador by then LFC manager Rafael Benitez in 2009. He has since returned to his familiar position as manager. Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler are also both fan favourites who were welcomed back at Anfield enjoying relative success during their second spells at the club.
Steve Staunton originally played for Liverpool between 1986-1991. After that he joined Aston Villa. Liverpool re-signed him in 1998, only for him to again depart for Aston Villa in 2000.
By returning to Merseyside Craig Bellamy gives Liverpool some much needed pace and versatility in attack, able to play on both flanks as well as upfront. He is a different option to what Liverpool currently can call upon and, as has been seen in the past, can be very effective as an impact substitute.
If managed well Bellamy could be one of the signings of the season. He is a character people often feel needs to be controlled. In my opinion Dalglish doesn’t need to find a way control Bellamy. He needs to unleash him.
A new number, a new start, familiar shirt.
There are 38 games in a Premier League season. Whilst Craig Bellamy might not feature every week, let alone start, he could have a big say on how successful Liverpool’s battle for a Champions League place is this season. As big a say as he’ll allow himself to have anyway. Some things never change and Craig Bellamy will always have the potential to be his own worst enemy. I think many Liverpool fans share the same view as me though when I say I am glad Craig Bellamy has returned to Liverpool. I think he will be a good addition to Kenny Dalglish’s side. At the very least let’s hope his second spell at the club can be more of a success than his first.
The Nutter with a Putter is back at Anfield! Premier League defences beware.
This post was written by Theo Squires. You can message Theo any comments or feedback you have. You can also contact Theo at firstname.lastname@example.org, http://twitter.com/#!/tsbs92 or http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/theo.squires