City winger Lee Croft today revealed the secret of his blossoming form – he's playing the game with a big, broad grin on his face.
That was, of course, one of Nigel Worthington's well-worn mantras – that all too often, the secret to a player playing well is getting a player to enjoy his football.
That nine times out of ten – and in whatever walk of life you choose – any individual will perform better if they enjoy their work.
Getting people to enjoy their work is, however, where the skill of a manager comes in. And that as Croft enjoys his best spell in a Canary shirt since that ?600,000 switch from Manchester City in the summer of 2006, you sense that the new-look Colney combination of Glenn Roeder, Lee Clark and Paul Stephenson is putting a smile back on the Canary winger's face.
Not that it is ever that far away.
?As I've said to you all over the last few weeks, I'm really enjoying my football. And when I'm enjoying my football, then performances come out of me,? said Croft, who made young Joe Mattock's life a misery yesterday before Foxes boss Ian Holloway gave James Chambers a go after the break.
?We're playing some really good football – especially away from home. So it was nice to bring it back here and put on a performance like that.
?But again we went away disappointed that we've not won the game. But if those sort or performances keep coming, then I don't think we'll go far wrong.?
Individually, what's the diference? What's clicked? ?I think I'm a player that if someone instills a bit of belief in me then I grow as a player.
?The gaffer, Clarky (Lee Clark) and Stevo (Paul Stephenson), they're always telling me what I can do – they do give me that belief in myself. And if someone does give me that, then I will go out and try and repay them for that faith.?
But for the flutter of a linesman's flag, he would have opened the scoring within the game's first five minutes as he coolly despatched Ryan Bertrand's inviting, far post cross. He came equally close with a one-on-one that keeper Ben Alnwick only denied with his feet.
?I thought I was on-side,? said Croft, a view he shared with the manager. ?I'm directly in line with the lad; I'm not going to stray over; I'm not stupid.
?So the ball's come over, I'm in line with him and I was quite happy with the finish, to be honest after hitting the woodwork in the last few games. And when I heard the whistle go I was disappointed.?
Given events at Gigg Lane in mid-week where his regular partner in comedy crime, Darren Huckerby, got the starting nod, it was back to an increasingly typical league performance from the re-born Canaries – full of the vim and vigour you expect from a side that has now lost just once in its last 13 Championship games.
It remains a remarkable turnaround in a club's fortunes as City find themselves five points above the bottom three – and all from being five points adrift at the foot of the table just three, short months ago.
?We'll still take positives out of it,? said Croft, displaying the kind of form and footwork that made him a regular in the England Youth set-up.
?The gaffer said that it took big players to come out and bounce back after a disappointing performance on the Tuesday night. And I think we did that today – we just lacked the final finish.?
Roeder, it appears, wouldn't disagree. ?The gaffer said that it's the best performance that he's had in a 0-0 game – we were fantastic in the first-half.
?And I think it's an on-going thing. And as long as we keep building on it and we keep reproducing that form, then I don't think there'smany other teams that can play better football than us.?
The trick that Roeder appears to be pulling off is encouraging a swash-buckling style, but not at a huge defensive cost. It is a one-winger policy that has found croft operating without his side-kick.
?We'd like to play together,? he said, with Huckerby now sidelined by a hip issue. ?We'd love to both be on either wing and be doing our thing, but we've set our stall out and it's whatever the gaffer thinks. Whether it's me or Hucks – that's down to him.?
Until someone gets to the root of that hip issue, the gig belongs to Croft.
?Crofty was terrific today,? said his manager. ?Other than score a goal, he did all he could.
?And he's pretty annoyed with himself because at the last couple of games – at Barnsley and at Bury – he should have scored. Open goals – and he missed them. So he's pretty upset with that.
?And he knows that he has to get better at his finishing because we need players in all positions to chip in with a few goals, not just rely on the strikers.?
But, said Roeder, when Croft fires into life so does the team; he was excellent in the New Year's Day draw at Crystal Palace – another occasion when the Canaries should have had more to show for their efforts.
?His performances over the last few weeks have been a feature of our performances – when we've played well you can normally look and see that Crofty's played well.?
He should, of course, have opened the scoring after just five minutes; then that particular monkey would have been well and truly off his back.
?And the annoying thing is, it should have done,? said Roeder. ?I've looked at it several times on the video and he is, at worst, level…”
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