Craig convinced Canaries will avoid drop

CHRIS LAKEY Craig Fleming is convinced Norwich City can escape the clutches of relegation from the Championship. The departing Canaries club captain bade an emotional farewell to players and club staff at Colney and Carrow Road yesterday after joining Rotherham on a free transfer.

CHRIS LAKEY

Craig Fleming is convinced Norwich City can escape the clutches of relegation from the Championship.

The departing Canaries club captain bade an emotional farewell to players and club staff at Colney and Carrow Road yesterday after joining Rotherham on a free transfer.

And he had some encouraging words for City fans who suddenly face the very real prospect of relegation to the third tier of English football.


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“I'm sure they can pull through, honestly,” said the 35-year-old. “I think when you look at the team and you look at the squad there is a lot of quality there.

“Of course it can be difficult if you get sucked into a relegation fight and that's what they must avoid. It's happened to some good teams over the years, like Nottingham Forest, but I can't see it happening at Norwich. I am sure there is the quality of players to avoid that.”

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Fleming has a relegation battle of his own now that he has joined former Halifax team-mate Alan Knill's struggling Millers side, but after signing an 18-month contract on transfer deadline day yesterday says he's looking forward to the challenge.

“It's something I'm looking forward to,” said Fleming, who actually scored against Rotherham in the Carling Cup earlier this season.

“It's just a case of being able to play games of football. I'm looking forward to the challenge because we are in a difficult situation.

“Alan was playing for Halifax when I was an apprentice there and I'm looking forward to working with him again and to hopefully playing a part in helping Rotherham to stay in League One.”

Fleming's near 10-year stint at Carrow Road included membership of the club's Hall of Fame during the club's centenary celebrations in 2002. He made a total 382 appearances for Norwich, 19 as a sub, and scored 13 goals. At one stage he played 101 games in a row and celebrated his testimonial season with a match against Newcastle United at Carrow Road in last summer's pre-season.

The highlights were easier to name than the best players.

“Definitely winning the First Division championship and also getting to the play-off final against Birmingham,” he said. “No one can ever forget how Norwich fans turned Cardiff yellow and green that day. They were great times.

“I've played with some great players - up front we had Craig Bellamy, Darren Eadie and Darren Huckerby. There have been so many others - I'm not going to upset anyone by leaving them out.

“The hardest to play against were probably Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Paul Scholes.”

The Yorkshireman said his goodbye to players and club staff at Colney and Carrow Road yesterday and paid tribute to the Canaries fans.

“I could not have chosen a better club to come to, and I am not just saying that,” he said. “I got really choked up today when I was saying my goodbyes - it's a special football club run by special people.

“I want to say a huge thank you to the fans, they have been fantastic over the last 10 years and of course during my testimonial season, truly fantastic. I really and sincerely hope they get the good times and the success they fully deserve in the years ahead.

“Norwich City has been a massive part of my life and it always will be. I'm just very grateful to the supporters and everyone who I've worked with at the club since I joined. I was always proud to pull on the green and yellow jersey.”

City boss Peter Grant paid tribute to the contribution Fleming has made to Norwich City over the years: “I played with Craig when I was here before and he has been a fantastic stalwart for this club.

“To be a sterling defender for so many years in the Championship and of course for a season in the Premiership is a massive achievement. To do it with the same club in this day and age is magnificent.

“Craig is a credit to himself and his family and a model professional. The move to Rotherham will hopefully give him the opportunity to play first team football and I know he will be giving it everything to try and help them avoid the drop.”

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