Bellamy takes second chance to impress
Craig Bellamy's previous life at Liverpool is best remembered for his attempts to improve his golf swing by taking a club to John Arne Riise on a team bonding exercise on the Algarve.
Bellamy's willingness to make life difficult for colleagues and opponents alike has been central to the narrative of his eventful career. So it was no surprise that he was at it again in the plush new surroundings of The Amex Stadium in Brighton on Wednesday.
The Wales striker tormented opponents Brighton with a goal and display of all-round verve in Liverpool's 2-1 win in the Carling Cup - and this time it was £35m Andy Carroll who may just be the team-mate feeling under the cosh.
On a night when the biggest cheer from Liverpool's fans came at the start of Steven Gerrard's 16-minute cameo after six months out with a groin injury, there was plenty of applause for the player who thought his Anfield career was over for good when he was sold to West Ham United in 2007.
Bellamy's instant understanding with Luis Suarez and the manner in which he linked up with Dirk Kuyt made him look a more comfortable fit in 90 minutes than Carroll has at any of the very early stages of his Liverpool career.
Carroll is still settling to life at Liverpool after his move from Newcastle United but on this evidence, even against Championship opposition, Bellamy looks in the mood to push his way up the queue of Anfield's attacking options and threaten the giant Geordie's hopes of a starting place.
Bellamy showed enough to suggest he could be much more than just an impact substitute
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish trusted his keenest instincts when his pursuit of a surprise deal to bring the 32-year-old, who left Anfield after one fruitless season, reached a successful conclusion on transfer deadline day.
And the logic behind the move was illustrated as Bellamy made a powerful case for further inclusion with an outstanding contribution on his first start since his return to the club on a free transfer from Manchester City.
Greater challenges lie ahead than this one, but Bellamy looks determined to fulfil Dalglish's optimistic bulletins after the Scot said when he signed: "He said he was a Liverpool fan and had always wanted to play for the club. He has that opportunity again. The older you get the less opportunities you get and he wanted to grab this one. He made some sacrifices to come here.
"He's a fantastic trainer, has good pace and is always a threat. He always looks like he's going to do something. He's wiser now and uses his experience really well. I think he's ideal for us and someone who will really help us. I think he's a better player now than he was when he was 25."
Bellamy was given his chance alongside Suarez in a partnership based on pace and constant movement. The pair hit it off immediately, with the Uruguayan setting up Bellamy's early goal and sending a header inches wide when the compliment was repaid.
This instant understanding was at the heart of a Liverpool performance, especially in the first half, that was awash with mobility and fluidity and the ideal template for the passing and moving style Dalglish wishes to encourage.
And Bellamy was everywhere. If he was not scoring or creating he was surprising not only his team-mates but Dalglish himself by crashing a 35-yard free-kick against the bar while everyone waited for a delivery into the box.
He delivered a fruity piece of advice to another Liverpool player within Dalglish's earshot and there was the inevitable baiting from the Brighton fans and a very minor spat with the officials.
Dalglish was delighted with his performance, saying: "He just loves playing football. Craig was fantastic. When he came in we said he would make a contribution and it has not taken him long. He is really enthusiastic and fit. He loves the football club and is a supporter, which sometimes sounds a bit sickly, but he is and wants to do the best he can for them."
Carroll will play his part but there is no escaping the fact that Liverpool's style moves more smoothly with Suarez at the hub and Kuyt's energy in the mix. Now Bellamy has shown that he can also add an ingredient.
It is clear that Carroll is too big a talent to dismiss but as he jogged around a silent Amex Stadium after the final whistle, he will have noted an extra, somewhat unexpected, challenge has arrived in the shape of the spiky, argumentative but talented Bellamy.
In the end it was interplay between Bellamy, Suarez and Kuyt that overcame Brighton, their cause not helped by the large helping of respect they offered Liverpool in a first half in which they could have been overwhelmed.
But in the new stadium that is a credit and a justifiable source of pride to all at Brighton, Gus Poyet's side showed why they are aiming for the Premier League with a bold passing approach that gave Liverpool the odd anxious moment, especially when Ashley Barnes scored a late penalty after Kuyt added a second for Dalglish's side.
Poyet was proud of how Brighton raised their game in the second half, saying: "It is the first time I will say this and you will never hear it again - I go home happy despite losing."
For Liverpool the win was everything after the beating they took at Tottenham. And for Bellamy the hope that life at Liverpool can be better second time around.