spoke to press on Friday morning ahead of City’s Saturday clash with Ipswich Town.Craig Bellamy
And City’s talisman spoke of the pleasure he felt in seeing City top of the Championship – but warned against complacency in the toughest of divisions.
“It’s always good to be top, but this lead can be taken off you in a week in this league,” said Craig. “It’s important we take things a game at a time – I know I’m using clichés but this group of players will do that. Against Ipswich tomorrow we’ll have to work as hard as we have done over the last four or five games – saying that, we have kept that standard all season. If we do that tomorrow we’ll give ourselves another good chance of getting three points again.
“When I came back my goal was just to try and win every game and just see where it takes us. The best thing about this group of players is that they have that mindset already. I feel really privileged and honoured every day that I come into this club to play with this group, I really do. Training is exceptional - credit to the staff and manager as well, they’ve got a real group of players who just want to excel themselves. I still want to do that and I’m thirty-three! If we’re good enough, we’re good enough, and if we’re not, there’s going to have to be one or two teams that will have worked extremely hard to overtake us.
“You have to be able to dig in – when you have four games in quick succession, your work rate will get you through games. We’ve gotten through a tough period just due to sheer tenacity and work rate for each other. I believe there’s a strong affection between the team and the supporters – the supporters realise what we’re trying to do week in, week out – and that’s a connection that I’ve probably not witnessed from most clubs."
And in reference to his own form and fitness, Craig added: “I played in the Olympics in July, where the schedule was much harder. Two years ago I was told that if I could be kept fit by not playing two games a week and that’s what I did. My problem has been my hamstrings, not my knees – the intensity at which I play means I do overload my hamstrings quite a lot so it’s no coincidence that I’ve had eight or nine hamstring tears in my career which is not ideal for an player like myself. This season I had a particularly bad ankle injury but due to the physios here I was very lucky to be playing within a month. It was a bit sore during the first couple of games, which I expected due to the speed that I came back at, but I knew this Christmas period would get me up to speed.
“Two years ago I think I put too much pressure on myself to get this club promoted. I’d go home and not socialise. This year, though, I’m miles happier than I’ve ever been. I feel like I can come in every day to a club that is really trying to do something right. Cardiff City Football Club is probably in the best state that it’s been in for a number of years."
City's number 39 also had special praise for City's striking stable, continuing: “Heidar (Helguson) is thirty-five and he’s doing well through this busy period too. Rudy (Gestede) and Joe (Mason) have both come in and done fantastic jobs. We defend from the front – I try to make the opposition play direct and cross the ball into the area, because our centre-backs will eat those up all day long. Our defence has been exceptional.
"You can see the manager's work ethic rubbing off on the team. I was lucky to train with him and see his attitude as a player, and he’s brought that into management. I feel we have one of the most up-and-coming and exciting managers in football at the moment.”