Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy is the Premier League's sprint king — at the age of 32
Congratulations to Craig Bellamy. The Liverpool striker has broken the record for the highest number of high-intensity, top-speed sprints recorded in a match.
Not bad going for a 32 year-old who has suffered from a history of serious injuries and who was awarded a free transfer at the start of the season.
The statistic might not be as eye-catching as goals scored or assists but it is, nevertheless, an absolutely key measure used by clubs to assess the effectiveness of their players.
Indeed, some managers, such as Sam Allardyce, regard it as one of the most significant statistics in a match.
Allardyce is adamant that the team who are the first to hit the 1,000-metre mark, collectively, for such sprints in a game will win the encounter. Such is their importance.
The exact details of Bellamy’s record, compiled using the ProZone system, are not being divulged by Liverpool but he achieved the feat during the second leg of the Carling Cup semi-final at Anfield against his former club Manchester City on Jan 25, when he played 88 minutes, scored, and was his team’s outstanding performer.
It is thought Bellamy recorded more than 840 metres of sprints in the match.
To put that in perspective, the Premier League average had been 324m while Tottenham’s Gareth Bale, in the famous ‘taxi for Maicon’ Champions League match in 2010 at home to Inter Milan achieved a remarkable 719m.
A sprint is, usually, classed as a run made at quicker than seven metres per second, equivalent to running 100 metres in a sharp 14 seconds.
Such has been Bellamy’s impact this season at Liverpool that it is understood he is on course to record the highest number of sprints by a player for a Premier League season, outpacing the likes of the rapid Bale and Theo Walcott, the Premier League’s quickest player.
Liverpool regard Bellamy’s signing from City as perhaps the transfer coup of the season and it may well be.
What is undeniable, however, is the hard work the player has put in to prolong a career which appeared in jeopardy of ending in frustration and injury at West Ham and Manchester City.
Now Bellamy has embraced all the ways of modern sports medical science, to which more and more clubs are cottoning on.
He is a devotee of the “periodisation” approach, with work being individually tailored to each player, and has previously employed the Dutch fitness coach Raymond Verheijen, whom he first met at City.
Bellamy also has a state-of-the-art altitude chamber installed in his bedroom at home to aid post-match recovery, he employs a personal chef to make his meals and he has worked closely with Steve Peters, the sports psychologist, who is best-known for his links with British cycling and Mark Cavendish in particular.
Bellamy even shocked his former City team-mate Nigel de Jong when the Dutch midfielder went into the Liverpool dressing room after that Carling Cup tie only to see the striker merrily sitting in an ice-bath celebrating.
Not that he can play every game. His career has to be carefully managed. But, as he has shown, he can make an impact.