Craig Bellamy reaffirms his commitment to Wales' cause

• 'To represent your country still means a lot to me'
• Toshack hits back at Rush, Ratcliffe and Southall

Craig Bellamy tonight reaffirmed his commitment to Wales and said the reaction to his failure to turn up for last month's friendly against Montenegro had been "blown out of all proportion". Manchester City have apologised to the Football Association of Wales and Bellamy for not notifying the governing body that the striker would remain with his club to recuperate from injury but the 30-year-old, who said he had no plans to follow Jason Koumas into international retirement, despite his recurrent injury problems, believes his reputation preceded him when it emerged that he had failed to report to the team hotel before the trip to Montenegro. He acknowledged that he has missed plenty of international fixtures over the years through injury but feels frustrated that anyone should question his commitment.

"Everyone knows I have missed my fair share of international games but never once have I rang up and said 'I ain't playing'. I've left that with the people at the club," said Bellamy, who will captain Wales against Russia in the World Cup qualifier at the Millennium Stadium. "There has been a bit of a misunderstanding. Manchester City have apologised to me and to Wales, but if it's my name then I am always going to get the blame no matter what.

"It's a little bit disappointing after the commitment I have showed," continued Bellamy. "Comment whether I have been a good player or a bad player, but one thing I have shown is commitment. All it takes is one little mix up with communication and suddenly that gets thrown into doubt. It has been blown out of proportion, probably because it's myself and with me being at Manchester City."

With increased competition for places at City and Bellamy struggling to overcome a troublesome knee injury that has dogged him since he was a teenager, it would not be entirely surprising if the forward followed the trend that has seen a number of Premier League players prematurely call time on international football. Bellamy, however, says that he continues to take great pleasure from representing Wales despite the physical cost.

"You look at the times I have been injured through international football," said Bellamy. "So if anyone is hurt enough or anyone felt like retiring from international football, I would probably be one of those who could hold their hand up and say 'This isn't working'. But it's that bug. To represent your country still means a lot to me. If I play against Russia and get injured, I would still be back for the next game because of that buzz of playing for your country."

John Toshack, meanwhile, has criticised Ian Rush, Kevin Ratcliffe and Neville Southall, three of the most famous players to have played for Wales, for claiming that it was time for the emerging crop of young players within the Wales squad to fulfil their promise. The Wales manager reminded the trio that during their international careers Wales failed to qualify for a major championship despite the success they enjoyed at club level.

"I've read some ex-players saying that the young lads need to start delivering but they never delivered themselves," said Toshack. "Rush, Ratcliffe, Southall – you look at the side they had, the experienced players they were and what they won at club level, but they never delivered either.

"Of course we hope somewhere down the line [the current group of youngsters] will deliver but it's not as straightforward as that and the last couple of groups that we have been involved in, we've really caught the toughest teams of the lot. But it's just worth reminding some of [the former players] that, as well as they did at their clubs, it's 30-odd years since we won a group. We're doing the best that we can."


Stuart James in Cardiff

The GuardianTramp

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