20130608

Craig Bellamy: Menace in the eyes but compassion in the heart of football's GoodFella

Craig Bellamy was going to call his autobiography Playing With Fire until he realised it wasn't exactly original.

He plumped instead for GoodFella, a word taken from the lexicon of the New York mafia to describe a fully-fledged gangster, immortalised in Martin Scorcese's 1990 mob saga, GoodFellas. The book cover shamelessly steals the typeface from the movie poster, behind which Bellamy, moodily photographed in black and white, fixes you with a menacing stare.

The book has a lot to live up to, therefore, before you read even a single page, compelling Bellamy to tell all the tales from a life in which he seems always to have been close to the edge.  The Welsh striker is no gangster but has been involved in violent incidents in football and is familiar with the inside of a courtroom, although none of the assault charges brought against him has led to conviction.

He is also a man with opinions he tends not to keep to himself and in sharing those Craig Bellamy: GoodFella does not disappoint.   Bellamy, who will be back in the Premier League with Cardiff City next season, has played for nine different clubs in senior football and has plenty to say about most of them, from his notorious airport fight with coach John Carver at Newcastle and the abusive text exchanges with Alan Shearer to what he really thought of Rafa Benitez at Liverpool and Roberto Mancini at Manchester City.

The book and the marketing campaign are a triumph for Trinity Mirror Sport Media, who not only published GoodFella but engaged the Daily Mirror's chief sportswriter, Oliver Holt, to work with Bellamy on the manuscript and used Trinity Mirror's network of regional newspapers to publicise it.

But before you make the assumption that it is a money-making exercise for Bellamy himself, note that every penny he accrues in royalties from the book will go to the foundation he set up after a football friend invited him to visit Sierra Leone and which has raised millions of pounds - including £1.2 million from his own pocket - to establish and run a football academy and youth league in the impoverished West African nation.

Perhaps any judgment made on whether Bellamy deserves to be recognised as a "good fellow" by another definition should bear that in mind.  It's up to you to decide.

Craig Bellamy: GoodFella - My Autobiography, by Craig Bellamy

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