Craig Bellamy - GoodFella
playing in the street. You could walk into anyone’s house.
    And inevitably, some of my happiest memories are simple ones linked to football. I remember the 1990 FA Cup semi-final when Liverpool played Crystal Palace; flitting from one mate’s house to another. I went into one house and Ian Rush had scored, then popped into another house and someone else had scored and suddenly Alan Pardew was scoring the goal that won it in extra-time for Palace and it was 4-3. And then after the match, the ice cream van appeared in the street and it was carnage.
    But those days were gone. Things had moved on. Some of my mates had already gone to jail for crimes they committed trying to feed their drug habits and it had got to the point where my dad actually wanted me to go to Norwich because he was so worried about what might happen to me if I stuck around at home in Cardiff.
    Norwich wanted to move me over to the club early but they were restricted because of my school age. But I wasn’t going to school anyway, so one way and another, I started spending more time in Norwich. I began playing for the youth team and the more football I was getting, the more they were coaching me and improving me.
    I still found the final separation from home very hard when it came. I joined up on July 1 and the night before I left, it dawned on me that this was it. I knew life was changing. I knew life was never going to be like this again. I knew I had to do it or I was never going to be a footballer.
    Leaving Claire was very difficult. She was still at school. There was no possibility of her coming to join me and I worried we would drift apart. And suddenly, simple parts of my routine that I had taken for granted, like hopping on the bus to go and see my nana, seemed unbelievably precious now that I knew I was never going to be able to do them again. These are the rites of passage that many kids go through when they leave home but I was 15 and I found it very tough.
    It had an impact on those around me, too. My elder brother and I were two different people but I was close to my younger brother. He was my kid brother and we shared a bedroom when we were kids and I was very protective of him. When I look back on it now, I feel for him because I moved away at 15. One minute your big brother is looking out for you and the next he is gone.
    He was at a difficult age and all of a sudden, he was alone. We have drifted apart since then and I think it’s because I moved away at a young age. It wasn’t just the geographical separation. It puts a psychological barrier between you, too. Me moving away as young as I did affected a lot of relationships in my close family. That determination to make it, it can set you apart.
    My mum and dad drove me up to Norwich. My dad had been counting the days to me leaving because he knew the dangers I was facing at home. My mum was different. She would have been happy if I’d said I wanted to come back home. She would have driven me right back to Cardiff there and then. She was losing her 15-year-old son and it was tough for her. My father told me later how upset she was in the car on the way back but she couldn’t show that in front of me. She thought she had lost me, which she had. I wasn’t going to be there any more.
    In many ways, I think the pain of that separation and what I endured in the following weeks and months shaped the person I became. That first year of my apprenticeship at Norwich was the hardest year of my life. For the first few months, I cried myself to sleep most nights. I learned to cope on my own. I didn’t ever turn to others.
    Everything about it was difficult. I was in digs and the house was owned by a family who hadn’t put anyone up before so they weren’t quite sure how to act. They imposed curfews at night. It was strict and formal, a bit of a culture shock after the life I had been living in Cardiff.
    I shared a room with another apprentice who had grown up in a village a few miles away. So

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