Cardiff’s Bothroyd’s the big threat warns Iwan
Most Norwich City supporters will look to ex-Canary Craig Bellamy as the man to watch at Cardiff on Saturday – but Iwan Roberts sees a greater threat elsewhere.
City legend Roberts, now working for BBC Wales, was a former team-mate of Norwich youth product Bellamy at Carrow Road between 1997 and 1999.
And although he expects the on-loan Manchester City man to cause Paul Lambert’s side plenty of problems when second and fourth in the Championship meet at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday, Roberts believes Jay Bothroyd is the man Norwich really need to beware.
The 28-year-old former Perugia and Blackburn striker has scored 11 times in 13 games this season and survived the possibility of a retrospective three-match ban from the Welsh FA yesterday, for a late challenge on Leeds forward Luciano Becchio during Cardiff’s 4-0 win at Elland Road on Monday night.
Norwich managed an encouraging goalless draw at Championship leaders Queens Park Rangers earlier this month, but Roberts feels Cardiff and Bothroyd will pose a different threat to City this weekend.
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“QPR don’t concede many goals, whereas Cardiff are awesome going forward – maybe to the detriment over the rest of the park,” said Roberts. “Norwich can get at them attacking-wise, but when you’ve got the likes of Bellamy, Bothroyd – who’s been a revelation for the last two years at Cardiff – Michael Chopra and Peter Wittingham, they are a very good side going forward.
“They’ve pushed the boat out to get these players in, they’re earning good wages so they’ve got every right to be scoring goals. It’s going to be a really attractive game. Norwich’s strength is going forward and scoring goals, and so is Cardiff’s.
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“For one reason or another (Cardiff manager) Dave Jones really has got the best out of Jay. People go on about Craig, but I think Bothroyd is the one Dave couldn’t replace, he’s that important to them. He’s a good size, he’s got pace and he’s good in the air, two good feet and he really is a talented player.”
Cardiff’s impressive win at Leeds certainly sent out a message to the rest of the second tier – but Roberts thinks it will be the next two games where Jones’ side show what they are made of.
“People have gone on about the Leeds game on Monday, but I think that was a poor Leeds show if I’m totally honest,” said Roberts. “The first goal was the killer – but Cardiff were awesome second half, I must say.
“We’ll get a better idea of where Cardiff are at in the next two games. Norwich will be a tough game for them and the south Wales derby with Swansea – but especially with the way Norwich have played away from home, they’ve been picking up some great results and really good points away from home.”
Roberts and Bellamy enjoyed a short but fruitful partnership under manager Bruce Rioch at Carrow Road – peaking when the pair scored 23 and 20 goals respectively in 1998-99.
But injuries curtailed Bellamy’s time on the pitch in that season, after a sickening challenge from Wolves defender Kevin Muscat, and the following season too – with an eventual big money move to Coventry City ending his four year stay at Norwich in August 2000.
Bellamy has since blossomed into one Welsh football’s leading talents and, spending this season on loan at his home town club, Roberts is backing him to shine.
“I think he’s really enjoying his football again,” said Roberts. “He’s stepped down to the Championship when maybe 60 or 70 per cent of the Premier League would have taken Craig. He could have had his pick. But he’s always said he wanted to play for Cardiff, his home town club, and he’s been a revelation.
“And he’s improved that side immensely – the lads at Cardiff look up to him. They look at the things he does, what he does in training, the way he looks after himself, the way he gets himself physically and mentally prepared for a game.
“It seems they’re now trying to do it, to emulate more and more what Craig is doing, and they are learning not only on the pitch but in training too.
“But his form is unbelievable there and it probably does look a little too easy for him at times.
“If he can be a part of a squad of players that can get Cardiff promoted and playing top flight football for the first time in ages, it’ll be something that will mean a great deal to Craig Bellamy.
“We just clicked at Norwich, we really clicked. We forged a connection and it was typical big man, little man – his pace, my strength and aerial ability.
“I really enjoyed playing with him and I’m still convinced that if it wasn’t for that injury at Wolves that season...
“I think before the game on Saturday and when he comes out for the warm-up, I’m sure he’ll get a really warm welcome off the Norwich supporters. They realise what a good player he was.
“He had a chance to go and play Premier League football, which he needed to do. I don’t think they hold too many grudges against him for trying to better himself.
“He may have only been at the club in the first team for a season and a half, but what a season and a half it was, with the goals he scored and the goals he created. His pace was scary.”