Hughes Praises Bellamy's Quality & Robinho's Focus

The returning prodigal and a controversial debutant made it a happy night for Manchester City at Eastlands against unhappy Newcastle, leaving City boss Hughes enthused about the positives...

Manchester City manager Mark Hughes saw his side convincingly get the better of Newcastle United after a week or more of often negative publicity off the pitch, with two players whose names have been in the headlines both playing prominent roles in the 2-1 victory.

Robinho, fined by City for leaving their Tenerife training camp without permission for an unscheduled trip home to Brazil, then being questioned and later released on bail by West Yorkshire Police investigating an alleged sex assault in a Leeds nightclub, was a lively presence on the pitch against struggling Newcastle, and set up the first goal for Shaun Wright-Phillips with a couple of deft touches in the box.

And Craig Bellamy, recruited by Hughes for £14 million from West Ham United while the Kaka hysteria was at its height, scored on his debut against one of his previous clubs with a smart turn and shot from the edge of the area.

Reflecting on a satisfying night for his team, Hughes was inevitably asked if he'd had any reservations about selecting Robinho, given the turbulent few days the Brazilian had been through.
"I spoke to him this morning and it was clear he was preparing for the game. I know the events of the last week have not changed his focus and I had no qualms about playing him tonight," said Hughes.

"Mentally he was in the right place, he was concentrating on the job in hand and it was never any real doubt for me that he should play.

"The good thing was he played an intelligent ball to release Shaun Wright-Phillips for our first goal.

"I thought we played very well for the vast majority of the first half. Our movement and interchange between positions was excellent.

"We had more quality in key areas, [debutants] Nigel de Jong and Craig Bellamy had a positive impact on the team and they will get better for us."

He added: "The icing on the cake was Bellamy's performance."

Hughes is confident that his fellow Welshman has put his sometimes troubled past behind him and will prove to a valuable acquisition at Eastlands.

"Craig will strengthen this team because he is a quality player," he said. "A lot of people's judgement of him is clouded by past misdemeanours but there is no doubt what he can bring to us. His pace and running off the ball is something we have not really had and he can help open up defences for us.

"Craig could have stayed at West Ham and been a top player for them for five years. He could have been up there with Paolo Di Canio as one of their very best.

"But he wants to be remembered for football and he wants to make his mark on the game. He wants to play at the top level and wants to be part of what we are trying to achieve here."

Mark Hinton,