Craig Bellamy will lead Wales out at the Gary Speed Memorial Match against Costa Rica with manager Chris Coleman still none the wiser as to whether the game will be the Liverpool striker’s final appearance for his country.
Bellamy, 32, was yesterday confirmed as captain for tonight’s emotionally-charged fixture at Cardiff City Stadium, with regular skipper Aaron Ramsey ruled out with an ankle injury.
Bellamy was particularly close to late manager Speed and was deeply affected by his death in November, and the Wales management team, led by coach Osian Roberts for this fixture, felt it was fitting that he lead the side.
But Bellamy’s future remains uncertain. The forward was convinced to extend his international career by Speed, and Coleman is attempting to do the same with the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign looming. The player himself has admitted he is considering his future, and has not committed himself beyond this fixture.
Coleman believes Bellamy has already made his mind up, but is still waiting to find out the 67-cap striker’s decision.
He said: “When he’s ready, he’ll come out and say what he wants to do. I have to try and put myself in Craig’s shoes. He has known Gary a long time and was very close to him and his family.
“He came out of retirement for Gary. And he’s not here now. It’s not an easy one for Bellers.
“I won’t take it to heart if he comes out and says that he won’t do it. I will understand. I hope that’s not the situation.
“I’ve known Bellers a long time. I’m not saying our relationship is the same as it was with Gary’s. But he knows me and the way I work. It doesn’t have to be a love affair to work. Not that I dislike him, I don’t. I have a lot of respect for him.”
The fixture promises to be an emotional occasion with Speed’s family, over 50 Wales internationals and stars of the sporting world such as Sir Ian Botham and Joe Calzaghe in attendance.
Speed’s sons, Ed and Tom, will lead Wales out along with Bellamy and Ramsey, while Speed’s father Roger is to address the squad in the changing room before they take the field.
And Coleman revealed the squad had held a meeting to reflect on Speed’s death after joining up on Monday.
He said: “We had a meeting yesterday and we went into a room, we watched a bit of footage of Speed’s when he was a player and of his managerial career.”
Wales will also be without goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey (ankle) with either Lewis Price or Jason Brown likely to deputise.