Rafa disputes McDermott’s Bellamy claims

Former Reds legend Terry McDermott clearly hasn’t got over his long-standing grudge against Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy. Speaking of an alleged incident in the tunnel after Wednesday night’s match between Liverpool and Newcastle, McDermott sounded remarkably bitter: “I was talking to the referee. It had nothing to do with anyone else and I take exception to little upstarts like him. I do not like it when people like to think they are bigger than clubs. When he was at Newcastle, he thought he was a big cheese. Everywhere he has been, he has been in bother – and it is all starting again at Liverpool. There was no need for it at all and he was 100% out of order.”

It seems it happened at a time when McDermott was seething at losing to the Reds in a way he thought was unjust. He was having a good moan at the referee about two penalties that were turned down when he claims Bellamy started mocking him: “I was upset that we had lost the game in the way that we did. We felt that at the start of the second half we should have had two stonewall penalties, something which was backed up by the TV replays and in the first instance by Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez. I was talking to the referee at the edge of the tunnel when Bellamy appeared on the scene and suddenly started calling me names.”

Perhaps, if McDermott’s side of the story is to be believed, it’s Bellamy who has the grudge: “I thought he was just joking and I put my arm around him, but he kept on calling me names and that is when it all kicked off. I had my say and when he got to the top of the stairs, he started shouting at me again, but of course he had security guys around him.”

Bellamy left Newcastle after he became one of the many on the list of players who’ve fallen out with Graeme Souness. Ex-reds player and manager Souness was boss at St James’ at the time and as ever he wanted to make sure the media and the fans heard his version of events. Bellamy was painted in a very bad light, and McDermott joined in with comments that saw Bellamy’s family – still based on Tyneside – the subject of a lot of abuse. How much of what Souness and McDermott said back then is true we’ll probably never know, but if Bellamy did shout some abuse to McDermott it sounds like he had good reason. He’s also said to have refused to shake hands with McDermott, on Wednesday, but perhaps an apology in advance would have been in order from whoever is really in the wrong.

McDermott’s attempts to make Bellamy sound like he’s a problem player
were played down by Liverpool boss Rafa Benítez, and perhaps the
one-time Liverpool hero should consider an apology. Rafa says: “It
wasn't important – one or two seconds. You could hear shouts but
nothing important. For me it was nothing – some shouting and nothing

Rafa sees Craig day-in and day-out now, and he’s judging the Welshman
on what he’s seen – and he’s seen a player who he says is an example to
the rest: “Off the pitch, I promise you, talking with him, Craig is
really focused, more mature, and at this moment he is a perfect example
for the rest of the players. His training every day is fantastic and I
cannot say anything bad about him.”

He continued: “I spoke to him before the game and it was clear to me
he's a player who is more mature and more focused on his job. He knows
what's expected of him and he is thinking about himself and the team,
not other things. He's experienced a lot and learnt, so now he is
managing well with these situations.”

It was obviously a worry for many Liverpool fans when they heard that
Rafa was about to sign a player who’d had so many accusations levelled
at him. Rafa said at the time of the signing though that although he
was aware of those stories he wasn’t concerned there was anything to
worry about in that regard for the future. He’s repeated that again: “I
don't worry about the history with Craig. When you sign a player you
like to know everything about him if possible and in this case I knew
about these things. I was talking the same with Robbie Fowler, Jermaine
Pennant, Fabio Aurelio. You need to talk with the players and know what
they think about the club and the future and if they can be a good
signing for you. With Craig we were talking about backgrounds, and,
like the rest of the players he understands, he knows it's the last
opportunity with a big club.”

Bellamy’s not scored as many as he’d have liked, but his hard work has
been helping him earn a lot of respect from the Anfield faithful – but
of course he’s one of those himself: “He is a Liverpool supporter and
he is doing everything perfect for me now. When we talk about Craig we
know his background but in the last two months he has been getting on
really well with his team-mates, he has been really good. His work-rate
is good in every session and in every game, he is a good player for us
at this moment, a nice person and his relationship with the rest of the
players is good.”

It’s understandable to hear Newcastle fans hate him and to hear them
tell stories that suggest he’s up to no good, even making up stories of
bust-ups with other players, but Liverpool fans know that’s just not
true. Rafa confirmed again that Bellamy has not been involved in any
arguments with any team-mates: “He has no problems with anyone and I've
not seen him discussing any with the rest of the players.”

One thing that’s always been popular at Anfield is to see the strikers
making sure they show they know how to help out when Liverpool aren’t
in possession. Ian Rush did it for years, and Bellamy was no doubt
watching him do so as he was starting to learn his trade: “You need to
analyse the behaviour of the players on the pitch and, for me, to see
Craig closing down defenders in the last minute was a good example for
the rest of the players. These are the kind of players we want, working
until the end to regain the ball, to score goals, to play well. He is
desperate to play well. At this moment there is a very good player, a
very good professional and I can't say anything negative about him.”

“The goals will come from him. He's scored once already against Maccabi
Haifa and he will score a lot more. When the team is playing better, he
will get more opportunities.”

The officials from Wednesday night didn’t just miss penalty claims
(from both sides as it happens) they also missed an incident that has
seen Celestine Babayaro suspended for three games. He was charged with
violent conduct by the FA after they saw video footage of him attacking
Dirk Kuyt with an arm in the face. The FA gave him the option of a
standard three-match ban or a personal hearing, saying “According to
fast track procedures for such cases, along with the charge Babayaro
has been offered the automatic penalty of a three-match suspension. He
has until 6pm on Monday 25 September to respond to the charge.”

The 28-year-old admitted the charge though and so is now about to commence his three-match ban.