WALES boss Chris Coleman believes the “friction” that Craig Bellamy brings to the squad can be a massive help in their bid to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The veteran Liverpool striker has brushed aside talk that he would retire from international football following the death of previous manager Gary Speed and will lead the line in tomorrow night’s friendly against Mexico in New York (KO 8pm).
The match at the MetLife Stadium, home to American football sides the New York Giants and the New York Jets, will be Coleman’s first match in charge since he succeeded Speed.
The ex-Fulham manager took a backseat role for the Speed memorial match against Costa Rica in February but will be in total control this weekend as the build up to the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign begins in earnest.
After the game against Mexico, Wales have one more friendly against Bosnia-Hercegovina on August 15 before the qualifyiers start with back-to-back games against Belgium and Serbia in September.
With that in mind Coleman is delighted that Bellamy will be involved.
“I think Craig knows he's a big part of our plans,” Coleman said.
“If we're going to do anything in this qualifying campaign then we've got a better chance with Craig being part of us than not and he understands that.
“Craig being Craig he speaks his mind and not everybody likes that, and I suppose we can't agree on everything,” he added.
“But in a succesful team, the best teams I've been in, there's always been a little bit of friction and that can be really healthy if it's constructive.”
Bellamy’s main reason for considering retirement from national service is his record with injuries throughout his career and Coleman is aware of the need to handle his star striker with care.
“We've got to look after Craig because he's had that long-term injury, it's difficult for him to play two games in a week,” he explained.
“But, because of his enthusiasm for football, he wants to play in every game and I'm delighted he's here.
“I've had various conversations with Craig and they've always been positive.
“He's 32 and... he's got [nearly] 70 caps and he has put it in for his country, you don't get 70 caps if you don't turn up and I kind of expected he'd be here,” added Coleman.
Wales are without star midfielders Gareth Bale and Joe Ledley, plus Sunderland's David Vaughan, Darcy Blake of Cardiff, Neal Eardley of Blackpool and Crystal Palace goalkeeper Lewis Price against Mexico because of injuries.
“We knew we were going to have some pull-outs, I chose to leave two or three of the experienced boys behind anyway," Coleman said. “The boys have had knocks and bumps and bruises towards the end of a long, hard season. It's disappointing when you lose your players, but we were always going to have some pull-outs. It's a good chance for some of the younger players now as well.”