New Welsh international star Andrew Crofts has revealed just why he joined Paul Lambert’s ‘Canary Revolution’ – he wanted to learn at the feet of a midfield master.
Crofts, 26, played the full 90 minutes in this weekend’s 2-0 defeat by England at the Millennium Stadium – a new career high-point for a player who almost drifted out of the game altogether little more than two years ago as his 200-game Gillingham career ended in recrimination and reverse.
Loan spells at first Peterborough United and then Wrexham following a fall-out with boss Mark Stimson found the fortunes of the former Gills skipper at something of a low ebb; dreams of joining the likes of Craig Bellamy and Aaron Ramsey in an afternoon out at the Millennium looking simply that.
A distant, if not impossible dream as he found himself, aged 24, playing non-league football with Wrexham.
His return to the top, after being quietly released by the Gills, started at the Withdean Stadium and a spell under Seagulls boss Gus Poyet.
No mean midfielder himself, it was however his first meeting with Lambert that proved instrumental in reviving Crofts’ fortunes as the Brighton skipper found a kindred spirit.
In the Champions League winner, the City midfielder discovered an inspiration – on and off the pitch.
“After speaking to the gaffer I knew I wanted to sign for them because I could tell which direction they were going in,” Crofts recalled, as he spoke to the Kent On Sunday newspaper ahead of this weekend’s international outing.
It was, he said, the chance to further his playing education under the Canary chief that persuaded him to make the switch to Norfolk.
The rest could yet prove to be Canary folklore as Crofts proves to be one of the real pillars of Norwich’s on-going promotion push.
“I want to learn as much as I can from [Lambert] because everyone knows what a world-class player he was and how good he is as a manager now,” revealed Crofts.
“He’s an out and out winner, that rubs off on everyone and it’s been a pleasure playing for him.”
He was, he said, keeping his fingers crossed that he would be part of Gary Speed’s plans this weekend.
He was – even if injury to Spurs hero Gareth Bale helped. By every account, Crofts more than held his own in that Welsh midfield. And at 26-years-old, a rich and lengthy international career could yet beckon.
As, indeed, could top flight football if the Canaries can continue form-wise through the remaining eight games of the season.
“I don’t know if it would be the highlight of my career [playing for Wales against England],” he said. “I’ve had some big plusses so far, but I’m only 26 so there’s still lots to come.”
Including another big trip back to South Wales for what could yet turn out to be a promotion decider with the away game to Swansea City on April 9.
Already penned in as a live Sky game with a 5.20pm kick-off, the Canaries have now teamed up with Anglian Home Improvements to offer cut-price coach travel to the Liberty Stadium.
The price of official coach travel has been slashed from £36 to just £5 as the club rewards its ever-loyal Yellow And Green Army with a great offer for that long, long haul down the M4.
It all comes with the blessing of the boss.
“The fans have been absolutely brilliant for us this season, home and away,” said Lambert, as the club announced the offer this weekend.
“I think the distance they travel to go to away games and the numbers they come in are just phenomenal.”
Everyone is well aware of the importance of that game – right now the Swans are the biggest threat to Norwich’s dreams of back-to-back promotions. Their 3-2 home win over a stuttering Nottingham Forest got their own promotion hopes back on track after their recent wobbles.
To the winner could go all the spoils of the Premiership. Hence Lambert’s determination to get the City faithful there in full force.
“We need them, I can’t put it simpler than that,” said the Canary chief.
“They are brilliant to us and I think it’s great that the club and Anglian Home Improvements are helping them with the travel costs for our massive game at Swansea.”