CRAIG BELLAMY has little doubt about the way he is viewed by the outside world and even claimed on his arrival at Eastlands that his autobiography – not that he would ever write one – would be called ‘Don’t Google me’.
But Manchester City feel that even referee Mark Clattenburg fell victim to a pre-conceived view of the Welshman at the weekend, claiming the official was criticising the player at half-time before wrongly sending him off in the second half.
A City source claims Clattenburg asked City support staff: “How do you work with Craig Bellamy all week?” before suggesting that he felt Bellamy, who had earlier been booked for dissent, was trying to deceive him when he went down under Paul Robinson’s challenge.
City’s frustration at the matter is immense but the fact that Bellamy was shown two yellow cards means they have no way of appealing and have no way of making a formal complaint about Clattenburg’s conduct. Referees’ chief Keith Hackett refused to comment on the issue yesterday, claiming that it was a matter for the Football Association to deal with.
But Bellamy will be sitting at home scowling when City head to Tottenham on Wednesday and Hughes was struggling to contain his anger even an hour and a half after the draw with Bolton.
“Craig Bellamy bearing down on goal, running at pace against a full-back, and is not going to go down in those situations because he sees an opportunity to create goals and score goals himself,” said Hughes.
“That’s what he’s about. He’s not about gaining advantage by trying to con referees. He’s never done that in his career and he’s not going to start now.
“That’s why it’s a surprise that the referee felt when he spoke to Mark Bowen he said that Craig tried to con him, which patently obviously he didn’t.”
The arrival of characters such as Bellamy mean that City no longer buckle in games such as this. Under Sven Goran Eriksson or even last year under Hughes, had they been 3-2 down, with a man sent off, they would have been leaving the Reebok stadium, but at the same time, is a point enough?
It comes down to whether they should be given credit for coming from behind three times or slaughtered for falling behind three times. They are unbeaten in 13 matches and with one defeat all season they have lost two games fewer than Chelsea and three fewer than Manchester United.
But, in the Premier League, they have managed just 11 points from their last nine games, partly because they have only managed to keep one clean sheet in the league since August despite spending £40 million on Joleon Lescott and Kolo Toure in the summer.
Only time will give us the real answers but, as always, Hughes remains positive.
“In terms of our defending, I don’t think we can complain about what we’ve produced against Bolton,” he added. “I’d be more concerned if there was a fundamental error and there weren’t any.
“A year ago we might have lost this game. We’ve dug in. We’ve only been beaten once. There have been draws. Some have been frustrating, but others like this one are a good point given the circumstances of the game.
“We’ve got a big game on Wednesday and there won’t be any diminishing of our confidence because of what has happened here. I think we gained a lot by the manner of our performance.”
The same can be said for Bolton, who face their own crucial midweek game against fellow strugglers West Ham as they look for a first win in seven games and a first clean sheet in the Premier League.
There was more than hint of offside about Ivan Klasnic’s opener but Carlos Tevez soon wiped out the advantage and after Gary Cahill curled Bolton in front, back came City once again with Micah Richards finishing off a fine passing move.
Klasnic restored the hosts lead but despite having Bellamy sent off, City refused to buckle and Tevez burst clear to score their third equaliser of the day.
After being labelled a headless chicken by some critics, Tevez, 25, is starting to come good and has scored four goals in his last three games.
“Carlos was sensational. I think he’s been showing it for a few weeks now,” Richards said. “We knew it would take him a little while to settle with everything surrounding his move here from United.
“But he has come in and done the business for us. It has not surprised us because he did well for United who are one of the best teams in the world. I’ve played against him many times so I know very well how good he is.
“When he’s in that kind of form it’s just good to be on the same team as him. He’s phenomenal when he plays like that.”
Second-bottom Bolton know they have to beat West Ham, with Klasnic putting their situation in terms which their earthiest supporters would identify with.
“Next time against West Ham we must win the game,” he said. “The most important thing is that soon we must get three points to get out of this small s***.”
REFEREE: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear) 4: Was in a great position to call the Bellamy incident and got it wrong and, if true, his half-time comments do him no credit.
MATCH RATING: ***** It took an incident on the scale of what happened with Bellamy to overshadow a superb game. A real classic.
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