Craig Bellamy


By Dan King - Newcastle United Digital Editor

Michael Bridges has paid tribute to former Newcastle striker Craig Bellamy, who announced his retirement on Thursday at the age of 34.

The ex-Wales captain spent four years at St. James' Park and enjoyed one of the most productive spells of his career under Sir Bobby Robson before a public falling out with Graeme Souness saw him depart in 2005.

And while it was Bellamy's partnership with Alan Shearer (another man who he later clashed with) which thrilled the Tyneside faithful, Bridges also proved to be a decent foil for the pacy frontman during his brief stay with the Magpies in 2004.

North Shields-born Bridges played nine times for United, including the first leg of the UEFA Cup semi-final against Marseille - a tie in which Bellamy's unavailability due to injury proved costly.

And, speaking to nufc.co.uk at the Hong Kong Football Club Citibank Soccer Sevens tournament in the Far East, Bridges said: "Bellers is a legendary player.

"Everywhere he's gone, he's done good. Obviously Bellers had a few things off the field but that doesn't tarnish his reputation and what he's done in the game. He was a smashing lad.

"I just wish that I'd had half of his pace - anywhere close would have been nice!

"It was a great honour that I was able to grace the field with him."

Bridges, recently retired and now living in Australia, is representing Wallsend Boys Club in the Masters section of the tournament in Hong Kong, alongside fellow former Magpies Peter Beardsley - who is also coaching Newcastle's youngsters in the main competition - and Alan Thompson.

And the 35-year-old scored from the penalty spot in their opening game on Friday night, his late spot-kick earning a 1-1 draw against USRC.

"I love the concept and it's a great pre-pre-season for the teams that have come, including Newcastle with Pedro," said Bridges.

"It's great to see them getting a run-out but for the older boys, it's a hell of a session out there and just to represent Wallsend Boys Club with the likes of Beardsley, Tommo and the other lads who have come through from the Newcastle area is fantastic.

"It means a hell of a lot. Wallsend in our area is a massive club, but not around the world and it's great to be able to come and brand that. Tony Sealy's given us that opportunity over here and it's a fantastic place to come to and represent the Wallsend badge."

For unrivalled coverage of the Hong Kong Football Club Citibank Soccer Sevens, stay logged on to nufc.co.uk. Meanwhile nufcTV will be bringing subscribers exclusive interviews and extended highlights from the tournament