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Football: LAY OFF BELLERS; O'Neill and Hartson plead for an end to the 'witch-hunt'.

Byline: MICHAEL BAILLIE

MARTIN O'Neill and John Hartson last night accused Craig Bellamy's critics of waging a witch-hunt against the on-loan striker.

The Celtic duo joined forces to round on Bellamy's snipers in the wake of lurid headlines about the Welshman in a Sunday newspaper over alleged romps with a lap dancer.

Clyde's Darren Sheridan then hit out at Bellamy after he was on the end of some on-field banter during their Scottish Cup clash at Broadwood.

Parkhead boss O'Neill was angry that the player's past had been dragged up and said: "The story on Sunday was at least three years old. It was nice to see him in a Celtic strip and described as a Celtic rat - nothing to do with his time at Newcastle or Coventry or anywhere else as the case may be."

Hartson added: "People should judge Craig at the end of the season and I am sure that's the way he'd want to be judged.

"They shouldn't be bringing up everything from his past, what happened at Newcastle and the Souness saga as well as previous managers saying things about him.

"He has 10 or 15 games to show people what a good player he is. If he's scored just one goal at the end of that you can say what you like."

CAPTION(S):

CENTRE OF ATTENTION: Craig Bellamy; BACKING: O'Neill
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 2, 2005
Words:227
Previous Article:Football: ALIVE & KICKING; Celtic v Dundee, Parkhead, kick-off 7.45pm Hartson: I booted out my bad boy past and so can Bellers.
Next Article:Football: Aragones gets slap on wrist.


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