City star Andrew Crofts is looking forward to bumping into one of his oldest pals in football tomorrow – Chelsea and England star John Terry.
Or rather ‘JT’ as the 27-year-old Canary midfielder renews a friendship first forged as 10-year-olds in Chelsea’s Youth Academy.
The former room-mates would go their separate ways six years later – Crofts to Gillingham and a chance to chase his dreams of professional football from the Priestfield Stadium. Via loan spells at Wrexham and a lengthy spell at The Withdean.
Terry, of course, stayed firmly put down The Bridge and has, in fairness, never looked back. His career has been via World Cups and Champions League finals. He is the ultimate Chelsea kid made very, very good.
The two will, of course, bump into each other again at Wembley next week; one with Three Lions on his chest, the other with the red dragon of Wales. It is a heart-warming story of Crofts’ triumph over teenage adversity and rejection – one that he shares with so many of his Canary team-mates.
Proof that hard work and dedication can deliver their due reward; that the footballing gods always love a trier.
“I don’t feel as if I’ve got anything to prove – I’m just looking forward to going back there,” said the Welsh international, one of those fortunate enough to miss Tuesday night’s 4-0 Carling Cup reverse to MK Dons.
By which same token means that he is all-but certain to start at The Bridge tomorrow.
“I had six years there as a youngster and it has stood me in good stead – I got coached by the best and it will be a good occasion for me to go back there.
“I started my career there and to end up back there is one thing that I always wanted to do.”
All of which will ensure something of a teenage reunion unfolds either side of the first and final whistle.
“Obviously ‘JT’ has had an unbelievable career – and he has loads of years left in him,” said Crofts. The two have already spoken; Terry managed to track the Canary star down via Brighton boss Gus Poyet – himself, of course, once of Chelsea.
“When I was there, he [Terry] looked after me. He took me under his wing and he didn’t have to do that. And to still be in contact with him shows what a person he is as well.
“And it’ll be great to see him again at Chelsea tomorrow – and again at Wembley a week later.”
The two were clearly big mates way-back-when. “I was in digs with him – staying with the old kit man in the school holidays and he [Terry] was there too,” Crofts recalled.
“And that’s how I got to know him really well. Like I said, he took me under his wing and he’s a great lad. He’s got great banter – he’s a funny geezer. But most of all he’s a winner and a leader. And that’s obviously why he’s done so well. It’ll be nice to see him again.”
The game promises to test Norwich’s Premier League resolve like never before with Crofts likely to partner up with Bradley Johnson in the heart of that midfield.
With Wes Hoolahan struggling with a hamstring strain, Lambert could yet revert to the flat four seen against Stoke City with Anthony Pilkington hugging one touchline, Elliott Bennett the other.
Skipper Grant Holt and Steve Morrison would then be expected to provide the out let up top as Norwich look to give their millionaire hosts something to think about.
For Crofts knows they can’t afford to sit back and take whatever’s coming; they have to try and rock Chelsea back onto the back foot at some stage in proceedings. Park the bus they may do for the first 20 minutes, but it is unlikely to withstand the expected onslaught for the full 90.
“We’re going to be nice and positive – we don’t want to just go out there and make the numbers up,” said Crofts, echoing the manager’s sentiments from earlier today.
“We’re there to try and win a game of football. Obviously it’s going to be a tough ask, but anything can happen on the day.”
It will, it appears, be quite a day for the one-time Chelsea hopeful.
“This is why we wanted to get promoted – to play teams like this and everyone is looking forward to it. It’s going to be a big occasion and I can’t wait!”