DURBAN // Craig Bellamy remains confident that he still has a future at Manchester City despite the Premier League team bringing in three strikers worth £68 million (Dh409.4m) during the summer. Mark Hughes has signed Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz, which has cast doubts on where Bellamy is going to fit in the Eastlands pecking order when the new season begins next month.
But the Welsh forward, who joined City in January from West Ham United for £14m, believes he will be part of Hughes' plans now that he has shaken off the knee injury that ended last season's campaign in April, having made just 11 appearances and scored four goals for his new club. "My name is always linked in the transfer window, no matter if I've been injured for a year or whatever," he said. "I'm one of the first ones supposedly shown the door, but that definitely ain't gonna happen.
"I'm going to fight for my place here and the manager wants me to fight for my place. "If I was playing against Man City next season for West Ham, I would be thinking I could have been part of that, watching them play and train. "I'm 30 now and this is my last opportunity to be at a special club. I want to concentrate on staying fit. If I'm fit I can challenge. If I ain't fit, I'm not going to challenge.
"You are not going to play great week in week out. If I do step in. I've got to make sure I'm ready, whether I come off the bench or start. If I do make my mark then I expect to be given a chance." Bellamy, 30, believes the addition of the three strikers to the squad, is vital if City are going to be a competitive force in the Premier League this season and push on from finishing 10th last season.
"Last year we didn't have these attacking options. When I was at Liverpool, the one thing these Champions League clubs have is options," he said. "If some games ain't going the right way you can bring on one or two players who can do something different." City, who are owned by Sheikh Mansour, have come in for some criticism for playing large transfer fees for their acquisitions, but Bellamy defended his club and claims what they are doing is no different to that of the 'Big Four' in the Premier League - Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal.
"The top four have been doing it for years. They've been paying the highest fees, they've been paying the highest wages," he said. "You can grumble about Man City and a lot of people are saying it's not good for football. So should we just let these four stay at the top? "This is a chance for someone like us to have a really good go. It's the best thing that has happened to football." He adds: "We are trying to shorten the gap a bit quicker than what other clubs have been trying to do. But if you want quality players you have to pay a lot of money. We are doing it. If Chelsea or Liverpool were doing it, it's OK for them. But now Man City have done it, suddenly it's bad for football.
"But no, it's because we are outbidding the top four clubs which you are not supposed to be allowed to touch anymore. "People cry about it, 'when is someone going to break into the top four'. But you have to spend money to be able to do that. "If you go through United's team or Chelsea's team, they have been spending £20-30m on players for a long, long time. "Because they can't do it at the moment and we can, so that makes us the bad guys? Far from it. It's starting to evolve now like a top club."
Meanwhile away from the Premier League, the striker has been involved with the Craig Bellamy Foundation in Sierra Leone, a project designed to encourage African youngsters to play football, while raising funds for the pverty stricken country. As well as playing the game, the youths are encouraged to help their communities by completing tasks. Bellamy added: "If they do projects for local villages, they get given points," he said.
"If they win a game, they do get points, but they get more points because of the projects they are doing. So they might not win a game, but because of the projects, they could win the league. "They might not be a good football team, but that doesn't matter. They have helped the village and done as much as they can, so they have a chance to win the league." firstname.lastname@example.org