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Monday, February 19, 2007

Craig Bellamy faces uncertain future as Liverpool reel from golf club attack

Liverpool's preparations for Wednesday's Champions League game at Barcelona have been overshadowed by drunken misbehaviour on the Algarve. Craig Bellamy is facing a heavy fine and an uncertain future after a night out allegedly concluded with the forward using a golf club to attack his team-mate John Arne Riise.

Riise, who seemingly sustained bruises to his legs, was able to train alongside Bellamy yesterday and may receive a lesser punishment. He could well be joined on the Anfield roll of shame by Jermaine Pennant, Jerzy Dudek and Robbie Fowler, who all face club sanctions after police intervention was required to quell that trio's alcohol-fuelled antics.

Rafael Benítez's squad flew to Portugal eight days ago for a training camp before the game at Camp Nou. After five days of training Benítez allowed his players to let their hair down on Thursday night at the Vale do Lobo resort, where they were staying, and is understood to be dismayed that a handful abused his trust. An internal club investigation is now under way but no conclusions are anticipated until the squad's return from Barcelona.

"I met this morning with the entire first-team squad and made it absolutely clear to all of them the responsibilities that come with playing for this club and the way they are expected to conduct themselves both on and off the pitch," said Benítez, who may well decide to cut his losses on Bellamy and sell the combustible Welshman this summer.

"The players worked extremely hard at last week's training camp," added the Liverpool manager. "But we will take disciplinary action and fine any of them who are found to have breached club rules during our stay in Portugal. I've told the players this and they understand and accept the decision I have taken. Despite reports to the contrary, the spirit among the lads is very good with everyone looking forward to the Barcelona game."

The dispute involving Bellamy and Riise seemingly started with a karaoke competition in the early hours of Friday morning, when Bellamy took offence at the Norwegian left-back's refusal to sing.

Increasingly irritated by the Welshman's jibes, Riise reportedly became incandescent and, surrounded by fellow players, the pair squared up to each other, trading expletives. Although things calmed down as the group dispersed and headed for their rooms, Bellamy apparently felt he had lost face in front of his team-mates and, having armed himself with a golf club, tracked down Riise before allegedly swinging it at his legs.

Craig Bellamy, A history of trouble:

February 2002 Receives a caution for hitting a woman in a nightclub
March 2003 Charged with racially aggravated harassment outside a nightclub but later acquitted
March 2004 Throws a chair at John Carver, Newcastle's assistant manager
January 2005 Fined £80,000 by Graeme Souness for calling him a liar
April 2005 Abuses former Newcastle team-mate, Alan Shearer, by text
September 2006 Rows in tunnel with Newcastle coach Terry McDermott
November 2006 Bellamy cleared of assaulting teenage girl in a nightclub