An emotional Craig Bellamy offered his thoughts and feelings after an emotional encounter with Charlton Athletic that sealed Cardiff City’s promotion to the Premier League.
“The Championship is such a tough, tough league,” the local boy said. “It’s been proven week-in, week-out that every team can beat each other on their day in this division, it’s a real grind. For us, over the last three or so years we’ve been gaining momentum as a football club, but we’ve just not quite been able to clear that final Premier League hurdle due to teams being better than us. This year we’ve been the best team in this league. We’re the first team in the Championship to get promoted. If we can win the league that will be great, but our objective was to get promoted.”
Not caught up in the pre-match hysteria despite the possible reward, Bellamy, who perhaps had the most inclination for emotional investment in today’s result given his long-stretching association with the club, told of just how much promotion with his hometown club meant to him.
“It was very difficult [to not get caught up in the pre-match hype],” he admitted. “I knew that, despite the fact that it was Cardiff and I really wanted to be excited about it, but in the back of my mind I kept on thinking that it never quite goes smoothly for Cardiff.
“When I saw the referee wave the linesmen and keeper over before the final whistle, I dropped to my knees: firstly because I was exhausted and secondly due to utter relief. It’s something that I just can’t explain, but I’m so grateful to have been able to play a small part in what is a huge time in this club’s history. This is where we’re from; we wear our heart on my sleeve. I feel so privileged to have done it here, where the people I love most are nearby. I spoke to my father after the game, and he told me that he would now die a happy man.”
Cardiff’s number 39 heaped praise on the two managers he has played under at the club, acknowledging the contributions of both Malky Mackay and his predecessor Dave Jones, saying, “Malky has been immense. His professionalism, his expectations of us as a group, his expectations of himself and even what he does in the community show that. The fans have taken to him, the club has taken to him and he’s really pushed us forward. With him at the helm this club is going in the right direction. We must not forget the contribution that Dave Jones put into this football club. He took us to a Play-Off Final and an FA Cup final, and set this machine in motion.
“We’ll start thinking about next season when we come back for pre-season. There is no other league like the Premier League. I’ve been very fortunate to play eleven seasons in the league, and the quality of players and clubs mean it’s the place to be. This city has been craving for it, this club has been craving for it and that first day, that first kick-off will be special as well.
“The Premier League will make us a worldwide club. The Championship doesn’t, and that’s a fact. When you take that step up to the Premier League, you will be watched worldwide and it will allow the club to really grow. Hopefully we’re able to really make a mark.”