CRAIG Bellamy (pictured) should be this season's Premiership Young Player of the Year, according to his Welsh striking colleague John Hartson.

Even though the 22-year-old Newcastle United striker will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, burly Celtic frontman Hartson reckons Bellamy has been the best youngster in the Premiership this term.

The Cardiff-born former Coventry City forward has destroyed top-flight defenses with his lightening pace and quick feet and has helped push Bobby Robson's men into contention for a Champions League spot.

And Hartson knows Bellamy better than anyone after they shared a season at Highfield Road last term before the Sky Blues were relegated from the top-flight.

Bellamy will have a tough battle to win the accolade as he is likely to be up against Blackburn Rovers' David Dunn, Tottenham Hotspur's Ledley King, West Ham's Joe Cole and Aston Villa's Darius Vassell among others.

But Hartson said: "Craig would get my vote definitely. We have all seen how exciting Craig has been this season, he has given Newcastle a massive lift with his pace. "Everybody talks about how Alan Shearer has helped Craig, but I think Craig has helped Alan just as much. Newcastle have really missed him since he picked up his injury and it has hit them for six.

"He has lightening pace and it is a big blow that he will not be involved against the Czech Republic tonight."

Hartson will lead the line at the Millennium Stadium (7.15pm), probably alongside Newport-born Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Nathan Blake, in super-confident mood as he is scoring goals for fun in the Scottish Premier League for Celtic. "I've got 19 goals and everything is going well," smiled the Swansea-born forward who celebrates his 27th birthday next Friday.

"The first six months were a bit of a nightmare because Henrik Larsson and Chris Sutton were on fire and scored 66 goals between them.

"But in the last six months I haven't looked back. And we are one win away from the league championship and have a Scottish Cup final to look forward to."

Speaking before tonight's Welsh match, Hartson said: "If we perform a fraction as well as we did against Argentina we will get beaten - everyone will have to spot on to get a result. But it's not all about the result tonight, it's about the level of performance. "