Man of the moment: Craig Bellamy

A few eyebrows were raised when Craig Bellamy chose to turn his back on Champions League football at Liverpool in favour of a £7.5million move to West Ham United, but our new club record signing certainly isn't looking upon the transfer as a step down. Recently appointed captain of his country, and approaching the prime years of his career, the 27-year-old Welsh striker is determined to be back on the European scene again soon in a claret and blue shirt, as he reveals in an exclusive interview with…

How have you found your first few days at West Ham United Craig?

"It's been really good. Sometimes it can take a little while to settle into a Club, and I've experienced that in the past, but everything has been fine here. It helps when you know a few people - obviously James Collins and Danny Gabbidon are international colleagues and I was with Lee Bowyer at Newcastle and Lucas Neill at Blackburn, so that has made things a bit easier for me.
"Training wise, I came in a week behind the other lads, so it's taken me a few days to catch up. I've been doing the same running - just not as many sets! I feel in really good condition, though, and hopefully I can keep progressing to get myself up to speed pretty soon."

Away from the football, are you enjoying London life?
"Yes, I know London fairly well - there are so many Premiership teams down here and so you get a feel for it. It was a place I always fancied living in and I'm enjoying it at the moment. I've lived in most major cities in Britain, so it was about time I added London to the list!"

How impressed have you been by the players around you at the Club?

"I've been very impressed. It's a good squad, but I knew that before I came here to be honest. There are some very good players, and it's a big squad, so there is lots of competition and fighting for positions, which is vital. Hopefully one or two more players will arrive before the new season and we can get off to a good start."

There have already been some negative reactions from the critics over your move from Liverpool - does that upset you in any way?

"Not at all, that's just part and parcel of my situation. When I left Newcastle, they said I would never find a bigger club than Newcastle, and I went on to play for Celtic and Liverpool in a short space of time.
"There are always going to be people who have something negative to say about me but there is nothing I can do about them because most are not playing anymore and are just criticising from an armchair or TV studio.
"The only thing I can do anything about is my form on the pitch, and that's what I concentrate on."

What are your aims and ambitions at Upton Park?
"My motivation is to do as well as I can for West Ham United. I've set myself targets and I want to achieve them going into the new season. I want to play in Europe again and that is my main focus with West Ham - that's what we're trying to do.
"I said the same thing when I went to Blackburn - they had just avoided relegation and people said we couldn't qualify for Europe, but it can be done. You can put a good run together and the points begin to mount up.
"Only last season this team was in Europe, and the aim is to get back there next year. It will be difficult, but if we can put that good run together, anything is possible with the players we have."