Welsh football legend Craig Bellamy says Bristol Rovers loanee was best player he coached

One of Bristol Rovers on-loan players has drawn praise from a former Liverpool and Manchester City attacker
Wales Under-21 international Sion Spence has earned praise from Craig Bellamy. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)Wales Under-21 international Sion Spence has earned praise from Craig Bellamy. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)
Wales Under-21 international Sion Spence has earned praise from Craig Bellamy. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)

Welsh football legend and former Liverpool winger Craig Bellamy says Bristol Rovers’ Sion Spence was the best player he has coached.

Spence, is on a season-long loan from Premier League side Crystal Palace and has shown Rovers fans a glimpse of his talent.

Before joining Rovers though, he was a long-serving member of Cardiff City’s youth academy, winning awards such as Young Player of the Year.

Bellamy, who played for a host of Premier League clubs and made 78 appearances for Wales, played a part in the football upbringing of Spence

And after a spell with the South Wales club and then Belgian Pro League outfit Anderlecht, Bellamy came to the conclusion that the loanee was the best player he’s coached in his short coaching career.

Craig Bellamy has recently been working  at Anderlecht with Vincent Kompany. (Photo by JOHN THYS / BELGA / AFP) / Belgium OUT (Photo by JOHN THYS/BELGA/AFP via Getty Images)Craig Bellamy has recently been working  at Anderlecht with Vincent Kompany. (Photo by JOHN THYS / BELGA / AFP) / Belgium OUT (Photo by JOHN THYS/BELGA/AFP via Getty Images)
Craig Bellamy has recently been working at Anderlecht with Vincent Kompany. (Photo by JOHN THYS / BELGA / AFP) / Belgium OUT (Photo by JOHN THYS/BELGA/AFP via Getty Images)

In an interview with Cardiff City website View from The Ninian, providing an insight into Sion, he said: “He was playing youth football at 14. He was incredible, one of the best players I’ve ever coached and that’s including Anderlecht, which is another level.

“Sion is one of the best youth players I’ve ever seen. From midfield, he scored about 26 goals in my first year. He was immense and won games on his own.”

The 21-year-old had to seek first-team opportunities away from his native homeland following his release.

His former club however have begun giving out first-team opportunities to youth players and Bellamy believes Spence was a player who got away from them.

Spence failed to make the breakthrough into the first-team and as a result his career stalled, meaning he had to drop down the divisions to seek a career in professional football.

"We’ve always had good players, but if you don’t give them the opportunity, you’ll never know.

“If Sion Spence had played at 16 or 17, which he should have and I tried so hard for him, you’ll lose him.

“He would have thrived in that environment. If you don’t put them in, they get stale and go backwards.”

In the present day, the attacking midfielder has struggled to force his way into what is a strong midfield with Joey Barton rarely changing his side unless forced upon by injury or suspension.

He has been unable to nudge out the likes of Glenn Whelan, Paul Coutts and Sam Finley all of whom have a wealth of experience in the Football League. Spence has also had to contend with the likes of attacking midfielder Antony Evans, who has been played as a secondary striker.

The Welshman though has shown that he does possess some match-winning qualities as he inspired Rovers to victory over Oxford United with an eight minute brace after coming from the bench.

Sadly though he’s been limited to just six league appearances, making just one start with the rest being substitute appearances and his future may lie away from the club.

With just 87 minutes of league action so far, he may be one player that his parent club will discuss taking back given his lack of game time, especially given the presence of Mark Bright at a number of home games.