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Craig Bellamy opens up on going bankrupt, losing everything and feeling ‘like being on Death Row’

Former footballer turned coach Craig Bellamy opens up on going bankrupt, losing everything he has and feeling ‘like being on Death Row’.

He was previously a forward, but now he’s an assistant manager at Championship leaders Burnley. The 43 year old was born in Cardiff and made his professional debut with Norwich City in 1996, before joining then-Premier League club Coventry City in 2000, breaking their record transfer fee.

However, they were relegated in his first and only season there. The following year, he joined Newcastle United where he was instrumental in helping the club to achieve two top-four finishes over a period of four years.

Bellamy broke up with manager Graeme Souness and spent the second half of the 2004-05 season at Celtic on loan, where he won The Scottish Cup.

Bellamy was back in the Premier League the following year. He played one season with Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool, helping them reach the 2007 UEFA Champions League Final.

He signed in 2007 for West Ham United, but an injury prevented him from playing. In 2009, he joined Manchester City.

Bellamy was on a season-long loan to Cardiff City, where he dropped a division to Championship for the 2010-11 season. He was a key player in helping Cardiff to the play-offs, where they lost in the semi-finals.

Bellamy was back in Liverpool the next season and won the 2012 League Cup. He also reached the final of the FA Cup before joining Cardiff City permanently in 2012. Bellamy later led them to Premier League, the first time that Cardiff had been in the top tier in English football for more than 50 years. After playing one more season in the Premier League with them, he set a new record scoring for his seventh club in that division before retiring in 2014.

Bellamy, who had represented Wales at various youth levels, made his senior debut for Wales in 1998 against Jamaica at the age 18 mark. Bellamy won 78 caps for Wales and scored 19 goals over the next 15 years. From 2007 to 2011, he was captain of the team. He later resigned due to recurring injuries. Bellamy was forced to retire from international football after the qualification campaign for the FIFA World Cup 2014. Bellamy was also part of the Great Britain Olympic Team at the 2012 Olympics in London. He appeared five times and scored once.

Bellamy was involved in many high-profile incidents with his teammates, managers, and the public during his career. Bobby Robson called him “the gobbiest player I’ve ever seen”. He is also a patron to many charities. In Sierra Leone, he founded The Craig Bellamy Foundation to provide football coaching and schooling to children in need.

Following a series of bad investments, including his property company CBD Developments, he unfortunately racked up huge debts.

After officially being declared bankrupt, he has opened up to the Mail about his battle.

He said: “I have been living the last five or six years on Death Row,’ says Bellamy, ‘just waiting for someone to put me out. I have been waiting for the cell door to open and someone to say: “Today’s the day”. It’s like the feeling of not being able to look forward to anything. All the money I’ve earned, I can’t get a mortgage. Financially, I have no future. The hurt of that. I can’t own anything. Everything’s gone.

“My life has been on hold. I’m not a tax dodger but I have been very naive and the HMRC have been pursuing me for unpaid tax for some time. Everything I have had has been taken from me. If you get the wrong people advising you, it all haemorrhages, it all dwindles. It has got to the point where bankruptcy is a relief. It means I can just live again.

“I know some people will probably think I have squandered all my money on drinking or gambling or drugs. I haven’t. I can go quiet where you won’t hear from me but I won’t be down the pub. I have never touched drugs since I was a young kid. I don’t gamble. I have never gambled. It doesn’t make any sense to me. But I have gambled on people unfortunately.’

Craig Bellamy opens up on going bankrupt, losing everything and feeling ‘like being on Death Row’

Police investigated the former adviser or Bellamy after questions were raised about how the 43-year old’s finances had been managed.

Bellamy wants to warn today’s footballers about the dangers of trusting the wrong people.


He continued: “I want this to be a warning to other players,’ says Bellamy. ‘Check everything, make sure the people advising you are regulated. If they are not regulated, it’s the Wild West. Get your stuff audited by independent people, the equivalent of getting a second opinion. I was brought up in a generation of footballers where everything was done for you. Every bill. Wherever I was, the club did everything for me. I think that’s wrong.

“It makes you too vulnerable. It’s good for players to have their own responsibilities because one day the club will not be there. You will finish your career and you will still be a young man and when you finish who’s going to pay your stuff then? You are going to have to learn to survive. You are going to have live in the real world.

“When I was a young player starting out at Norwich, my biggest fear was money. I was always wary of it. I didn’t want to end up with a lot of money but no career. I would give you all the money as long as I could keep my career. I always thought money would be the Devil. It would distract me to a point where I would lose my hunger. It would distract me so I would lose my bite and my ambition to want to get to the top.

“That chase of what everyone perceives to be success is not my chase. I don’t get that chase. Having nice things is nice, but it means nothing. I don’t wake up for that. I don’t wake up for the pursuit of nice things. I never felt like I had money anyway. I could afford nice things but there was no buzz in it. I actually felt like it was more of a pain in the backside, something for people to use you for.

“Wherever you go, you get over-charged. Wherever you went, you got ripped off. People think: “It doesn’t matter, he’s got so much of it, he won’t even notice.” People think you’re a walking cashpoint for them. I felt guilty saying “no” when people rang up for help so I never said “no”. They don’t ring me now. You don’t hear from them. There was someone I helped get on their feet, he was living with me and then he ripped me off. We were best friends.

“The idea — which I actually think is insane now but when you are a young kid who is hell bent on being a footballer, it seemed sensible — was for me to take care of my football career and for a guy I trusted with my finances to take care of the money. I said: “As long as when I finish football, it’s taken care of… you trust me to do the football and I will trust you with everything else.” It didn’t work out well, put it that way. Not for me, anyway.’

“People say footballers should know better,’ says Bellamy, ‘but why should I know better? I left school at 15. I felt like such a naive, stupid individual. I didn’t want to drink or gamble but if I’d lost money that way, maybe I could be kinder to myself. If I had done it to myself, then I could get on with fixing it. I don’t trust people because of this. As soon as you do trust someone, this happens. Deep down, I knew things weren’t right but I didn’t want to confront it. I didn’t know how to confront it. I thought: “If I have got it wrong here, I’m screwed”.

“I am lucky I know what I’m doing as a coach. I’m OK football-wise. But imagine if I wasn’t. Imagine if I didn’t want to be involved in football. Where would I go? What could I do? What type of life would I have? When you go into a dark depression and you start thinking suicidal thoughts, that’s when it comes. I should have been enjoying my retirement from playing. All the injuries I had had, all the work I had put in…for what? For people you trusted to do that to you?

“I entertained a lot of dark thoughts. But I realised the anger had to go because I was making myself ill. I am grateful I never turned to drink and I had close friends who have been incredible for me. And then Vincent comes up, completely out of the blue. I hadn’t been ready to take anything else on because my health was still not great — the dark thoughts and the dark moments can turn you bad. I wasn’t ready to manage because I had to learn to manage myself first.

“I knew I had to get up and I had to keep working. Keep going, keep working and it will be OK. I knew if I kept working and I stayed with it, something amazing would happen. I have believed in that so much that I have brainwashed myself. And now I know how lucky I am to be at Burnley, to be doing something I love and something I’m good at. And now we are top of the league and I love what I do. And now, after everything, something amazing is happening.”


Danny Murphy said in his column for the Daily Mail: “It is awful to hear about a footballer hitting the financial rocks. The saddest part is it’s no longer surprising.

“My heart goes out to Craig Bellamy because this has happened to many before him, and I fear will continue to do so.

“Hopefully, disclosing his struggles will bring Craig a sense of relief. For all the clickbait opinions, ‘How can guys who earn millions be bankrupt?’, there will be understanding from his peers.

“I’ve told my story in these pages before. I spiralled into depression a few years after hanging up my boots. Different factors were involved, including a financial mess.

“Mercifully, Craig has never been tempted by drink or drugs like I was, but seeing your money disappear – whether through bad advice or simply being ripped off – brings its own stresses and strains.

“Football is a way of life for most professionals from the age of five through to your mid-30s. The game is all-consuming, so we trust and rely on others to manage the wealth that comes with it.

“Financial abuse is one of the great scandals of the Premier League era and is under-reported because it’s not as glamorous a story as substance abuse by players or running off with girls.

“But it’s definitely there.

“Players don’t think about money when they are collecting big wages and it’s a huge shock to finish and find the investments you’d set up for the rest of your life have disappeared.

“Footballers are not thick but why should being skilful and athletic give you expertise in complex monetary affairs?

“We’re working-class guys who are seduced into trusting an industry of smart suits, glossy brochures and impressive company names.

“It works for some because there are good financial advisers out there. But others get caught out.

“Like many players, I was involved in film schemes that were sold to us as tax relief. It turned into litigation and police enquiries which is not good for mental health when you’re already desperately missing the game you love.

“I have many friends and ex-Premier League players who became bankrupt. Bravo to Craig for telling his story. You are not alone.”

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