‘I despatched off Prem’s most troublesome participant – I obtained it flawed and he by no means forgot’

Mark Clattenburg admits he wrongly showed Craig Bellamy a red card – and the ex-Premier League star never let him forget it.

Clattenburg refereed some of the English top flight’s biggest matches during his career, which spanned from 2006 and 2017 and also saw him officiate the 2016 Champions League and Euro 2016 finals. He was known for being able to maintain discipline while still sharing a joke or two with the players, though Bellamy was one who remained a nightmare to face.

Speaking on the Ben Heath Podcast, he lifted the lid on an incident where he incorrectly showed the then-Manchester City winger a second yellow card for diving. And Bellamy, who Clattenburg singles out as the most difficult footballer he ever had to deal with, held a grudge from that point onwards.

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The 49-year-old said: “Always one in particular used to cause me problems, that was Craig Bellamy. It was my downfall where I was refereeing him at Bolton for Man City.

“He was always on the referees’ radar. When we’d draw up lists of who were the most difficult players, he was always leading it. I was lucky because he was playing for Newcastle and I couldn’t referee them but then when he moved I was subject to him and how difficult he was.

“It was probably our fault. You’re trying to manage these players more to avoid any conflict when it probably would be easier to leave them alone. It made it worse.

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Clattenburg wrongly sent off Craig Bellamy [L] for diving against Bolton
Clattenburg wrongly sent off Craig Bellamy for diving against Bolton

“I had a situation where I incorrectly sent him off with two yellows. When I watched it back I thought the second yellow was harsh, probably wrong. He never let us forget it.”

Bellamy’s career spanned from 1996 to 2014, during which he played for the likes of Newcastle, Liverpool and West Ham. He picked up 47 yellow cards and two reds in the Premier League.

Clattenburg had previously shed light on Bellamy’s antics in 2020, accusing him of flailing his arms around, snarling at officials and using language that was “plain rude”.

The former Wales international allegedly even gave him the rough treatment off the pitch. “I knew my relationship with him was on sticky ground when he squeezed my balls in the tunnel at the Etihad, and I don’t mean my match-balls,” Clattenburg told the Daily Mail.

Bellamy gave referees a hard time
Bellamy gave referees a hard time

But Bellamy wasn’t the only player to give Clattenburg grief. The whistle-blower also named Manchester United legend Roy Keane and Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann as major pains to officiate, claiming the Irishman “wanted to be the hardman” while the latter was a “miserable bloke who would whinge about everything”.

He also called out Portugal’s Euro 2024 veteran Pepe for being a wind-up merchant who couldn’t be trusted, and John Obi Mikel, who once accused him of racism during a Chelsea match. Clattenburg was later cleared by the FA and claimed he received apologies from other Chelsea players, with the exception of Mikel.

Explaining the importance of managing players’ personalities, he added: “If you’re sending players off for dissent, that’s a weakness. You want to be able to manage these players and actually have 22 hand shakes and get respect from them at the end.”