Jermaine Pennant has lifted a lid on the night that Craig Bellamy attacked John Arne Riise with a golf club during a Liverpool training camp.
The Reds were at a warm weather training camp in Portugal ahead of a Champions League last-16 tie against Barcelona in 2007, when the squad were stunned by Bellamy entering Riise’s room and hitting him with a seven-iron as he lay in his bed.
Manager Rafael Benitez condemned the incident at the time, although ironically both players did then score in a 2-1 victory for the Reds at the Nou Camp on their way to the final in Athens.
Writing in his new tell-all autobiography Mental: Bad Behaviour, Ugly Truths and the Beautiful Game , Pennant says the row started over karaoke, with Bellamy refusing to take part.
“Riise was egging him on,” he writes. “‘Go on, Bellers, get up there.’ Riise was getting more than a bit lairy. ‘Ah, you’re a s***house, Craig. You’re on tour. You’re supposed to be the hard man.’
“We were all drinking our beers, thinking, ‘Oh-oh! Oh-oh!’
“It kept going on. Bellers was going, ‘You carry on, just carry on. Keep on f***ing singing your song. You carry on.’
Pennant recalls how later on, while he was in the injury room with Peter Crouch, team-mate Steve Finnan came running in, telling them Bellamy had “just battered Riise with a seven iron”.
He said Bellamy had gone to Riise’s room and attacked him on the bed.
Pennant said: “He started saying, ‘It was just a joke, Craig! I didn’t mean it, I swear! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!’ Bellers screamed at him, ‘Say that again. Go on, say it.’
“Riise said no – and then Bellers just started whacking him. He hit him a few times. He had his legs up, so took it mainly on the side of his thigh. ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry!’ he was screaming.”
Bellamy then infamously celebrated with a golf club swing when he scored Liverpool’s equaliser in the last-16, first leg tie at the Nou Camp, with Riise scoring the winner.
And Pennant says that the Reds did all they could to keep the incident quiet.
“In training the next day the matter was brought up on the training field before our session began,” writes. “Rafa (Benitez) said ‘Whatever has happened, we keep it in house, you know.
“‘Are you two fine?’ And then he said, ‘Riise let me see your leg.’ Riise lifted up his leg and it was just blue! Blue and purple! Rafa then said, ‘Look, is it sorted?’
“And they both looked at him and said yeah, then they shook hands. It was a bit salty after that, for sure!
“Riise didn’t train fully for a few days because of it, but still played. Then it came out in the newspapers. When Bellers scored, he took a golf swing by way of celebration.
“I think that was a bit harsh – and I don’t think I saw Riise celebrate with him!”
- Mental: Bad Behaviour, Ugly Truths and the Beautiful Game by Jermaine Pennant is out on Thursday in hardback, published by John Blake.