Little Earnie ready to step into the breach

Last updated : 27 March 2003 By Michael Morris

CARDIFF CITY'S Robert Earnshaw last night vowed he is ready to step into Craig Bellamy's boots against Azerbaijan IF Wales manager Mark Hughes does decide to axe the controversial Newcastle United ace.

Bellamy has been summonsed to appear in court following a fracas outside a Cardiff nightclub in the early hours of Monday morning.

Hughes is furious with the £50,000 a-week Premiership star and has warned him that he is in danger of being dropped for Saturday's Euro 2004 qualifier in Cardiff.

And if Bellamy is sent to the Millennium Stadium stands, the Wales manager will almost certainly replace him with Bluebirds hot-shot Earnshaw.

The Ninian Park goal machine, who has bagged a club record 34 goals this season, said, "I don't know the situation with Craig Bellamy, but do I know that I want to play against Azerbaijan.

"I've scored lots of goals for Cardiff and I've scored twice for Wales in four appearances.

"I'm excited just being in the squad, but I'm desperate to be involved on Saturday. If I play then I will try and score goals for the team.

"Before I won my first cap last year I always wanted to play for Wales and I was envious of those playing.

"I also wanted to play in the Millennium Stadium. Having played there twice, I can tell you it's a great feeling."

Hughes should have no qualms about fielding `Earnie' if he does decide Bellamy is not right for the Azerbaijan clash.

The Bluebird ace has been in record-breaking form this season - already smashing Hughie Ferguson's

76-year-old club record of most league and cup goals in a season.

When he netted his 30th league goal of the campaign last week, he equalled Stan Richards' club record of most league goals scored in a season, set 56 years ago.

"I never dreamed the season would turn out for me like it has," explained Earnshaw. "Since I scored that goal against Germany at the end of last season, things have just got better and better.

"Everything has happened so quickly. It has come so fast and I'm trying to take it in my stride.

"The big difference between this season and the others is that I've managed to avoid injury.

"When we won promotion to the Second Division a couple of years ago I scored 24 goals but I was out for a couple of months because of injuries and it was that story last season."

Earnshaw, who has scored more than half of City's 59 Second Division goals, fired home a cracker for his country in last month's 2-2 draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

He also enjoyed a dream international debut against Germany last May, hitting a brilliant winner.

"I'm always excited to come away with Wales and I try to learn from the players in the squad, especially the strikers.

Hopefully, one day players will look at me and try and learn from what I do," said Earnshaw.