Date: 5th October 2006 at 9:07pm
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In light of recent comments made by Benni McCarthy regarding Craig Bellamy and early season form it is important to determine how good McCarthy really is and if he has softened the blow of Bellamy`s departure?

A summer of top transfer targets were expected at Rovers, names like Eidur Gudjohnson were certainly feeding the imagination. However, Gudjohnson signed for Barcelona and all the talk was of top clubs poaching our stars. It`s funny how things never quite work out like that in football and reality is quick to slap you hard in the face.

Hughes had a real task of keeping hold of his five main stars; Craig Bellamy, Ryan Nelsen, Lucas Neill, Steven Reid and Morten Gamst Pedersen. It appeared our over-achievement was going to cost us.

Hughes did well though as only one left; Bellamy (although it looks like Neill may go too).

Rovers fans took a long time coming to terms with the loss of Bellamy whose whirlwind affair with the club and fans was unceremoniously brought to an end after Bellamy went back on his promises and headed off to Liverpool.

Many despaired and endured further anguish watching long-term target, Mido stretch out his decision whether or not to sign for the club. It felt like an eternity had passed before any kind of decision was reached, much like the continued Stephens inquiry, and even then nothing concrete was really said, or has been said.

Then joy all round as Rovers finally landed a star striker. Enter Benni McCarthy.

Rovers tried to sign him before along with every other English club, although I hear Accrington Stanley`s reported bid never materialised, but eventually Mark Hughes` perseverance paid off.

He was certainly delighted to have captured such a cultured striker. Indeed his goal scoring record was second to none, excluding a difficult period in Spain with Celta Vigo.

So is he our new goal scoring hero, can he turn a game on its head for us and, will he lead us to success?

I believe the only fair way to judge this, at such an early stage in his Rovers career, is to compare him to Bellamy, his predecessor, who at the end of last season answered that criterion.

McCarthy is acutely aware of Bellamy`s importance to Rovers last season. He told Skysports:

Craig is a great player and did a fantastic job for Blackburn last season. He played his part in helping this club get to where they are now. I`m just trying to pick up the pieces from where he left off.

It is true Bellamy`s boots were going to be very hard to fill because we weren`t just losing a player we were also losing a style of play. There was no way Rovers could afford to replace him with a player of similar speed and tenacity. The only option was Nicolas Anelka, and we all know how much Bolton forked out for ‘Le Sulk`.

So, after five goals in nine games how is Benni comparing against Bellamy?

He is without a doubt a more accomplished finisher. He is a striker where Bellamy was an attacker and he has a great sense of knowing where to be at the right time, only something that great strikers have. Also, he has started strongly; Bellamy took a considerable amount of time to find form and settle due to injuries.

Benni leads the line well because of his ability to hold the ball up and his strength. This was something that Bellamy never had. It wouldn`t have been possible to play Bellamy up-front alone; we have already seen this tactic used to success this season with Benni.

However, Bellamy had the pace to turn defence into attack within a few seconds, Benni doesn`t. Nevertheless, he has just as much skill as Bellamy and can, literally, turn a game on its head in an instant. His goal in the second leg against Salzburg is a great example of this.

McCarthy`s all round play invites more of the team forward as he is usually the fulcrum of all link-up play.

However, goals are the true measurement; so how does Benni stand up against Bellamy?

Bellamy played 27 times in the league for Rovers scoring 13 goals. That translates to about one every other game. McCarthy currently has 3 from 7 games, an identical ratio. Whereas Bellamy had injury problems, restricting the amount of games he featured in McCarthy has no such record. So with that in mind a full season from Benni should return roughly 17 league goals, a tally not reached by a Blackburn Rovers striker in the Premiership since Chris Sutton`s 18 in the 1998/1999 season.

This doesn`t take into consideration cup performances. McCarthy has scored two goals in two games in Europe where, as he states he is important:

I`m now here to bring my experience over the past few seasons of playing in Europe to a team that is optimistic, that wants to go places and win things. That`s why I can play in the UEFA Cup, and people should appreciate that.

So, although it would appear McCarthy is a suitable replacement for Craig Bellamy it is unfair to assume that is all he is. His scoring record and playing style suggests he will be the player with the potential to provide Rovers with 20 goals a season.

His transfer was greeted with a muted response. I think everyone was pleased with the signing but there were concerns to whether he could be a star player or score enough goals. His start suggests he will and all Rovers fans are currently basking in the prospect of another bargain buy striker.

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17 Replies to “Benni Better Than Bellamy?”

  • his european experiance alone will stand you in good stead this season , I think you have replaced Bellamy with a batter striker in my opinion , Benni is the man you needed !!

  • I think you are right there dazednconfuzed. I think his all round play involves the team more as an attacking unit not solely relying on Bellamy to break for us. I have been very impressed with his performances and attitude.

  • Benni has proved with all of his clubs that he is able to perform to an incredibly high level consistently. He is judged on goals and he scores them, but also contributes well. SO he is a more than able replacement. I’m not sure the Liverpool move will pay off for Bellamy? With the rotation they have I’m not sure he’ll be able to settle.

  • Maybe a bit too early in the Rovers season to compare them, and James says this but in the overall picture Benni is better than Bellamy in years gone by, I think anyway.

  • They say that a new striker takes time to settle in any side… Bellamy did quite quickly at Rovers, and so has Benni, Pongolle came to us with loads of promise but failed to deliver. Bellamy has yet to shine at Liverpool and he doesn’t have teh excuse of not knowing the premiersjip or even being injured – sometimes players just don;t settle. Having said that Crouch took 17(?) games to settle and he doing fine now, even though he still looks like a freak!

  • lol Ex Ewood Resident. It annoys me that with all the money in football with Liverpool and England that they can’t get a shirt that is long enough to fit Crouch! I wish Bellamy well but fear Liverpool might not work out for him? He’ll score eventually I’m sure though.

  • I have said b4 that I believe that Benni will be better for the club, Dont get me wrong Bellamy is a class act but in all round play Benni wins hands down Craig has a tendancy to miss chunks of the match. Just shows you aot u can pick up for 2.5m with the rite man in charge

  • Money doesn’t always by you the best does it. Selling Bellamy allowed Rovers to buy a proven replacement, and another quality forward in Jason Roberts and still have a little change left to help future develppment!

  • I think it will prove to be the second year in a row that we have picked up a quality bargain striker. I understand that it is still a little premature to do a comparison but it was inspired by Benni’s interview with Skysports. With that in mind I was intrigued to see if we have replaced Bellamy and his gut-wrenching departure had been forgotten.

  • have to say the squad is in better shape than last year, feel sorry for Criag in a way as he must have known he’d not play as much @ ‘pool than when he was the focal point @ Blackburn but this season and Rafa’s rotation system must of hit him bad. The grass isn’t always greener is it??

  • oh Neill will def find this out, he’s a good player that had his head turned by the mention of Barca after a decent World Cup, but he isnt that good. Players leave Blackburn thinking there onto better things but then realise that they dont play as much – where’s the so called ambition there?? the only teams that will take him on are no bigger in status as Blackburn after all

  • i think Benni is better than Craig by far yes bellamy has outstanding pase and he does have his would class strikes every now and again but McCarthy has all round quality and bellamy only has pace and power

  • Clint you are right…Neill will regret this decision just as many of thos ‘superstars’ did after moving on from Rovers. He will have Finnan to content with at pool and a rotation system….he will start no more than 12 league games for pool!!

  • Roversman he has Finnan and prob Alves in Jan, safter all this is who Rafa wants. Where will Neill play, not in the middle as they have that sorted and def not on the left as that ‘pools strongest position, Ask Kromkamp wot being a ritebac:@ liverpool’s all about

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