Hucks: Croft is the right choice

CHRIS LAKEY Darren Huckerby is looking forward to outflanking City's opponents this season, now that the Canaries can finally boast a right-sided midfielder in their ranks.


Darren Huckerby is looking forward to outflanking City's opponents this season, now that the Canaries can finally boast a right-sided midfielder in their ranks.

Huckerby has been the one and only half of the pincer movement in attack since Mark Rivers left two years ago, but the arrival of Lee Croft from Manchester City changes all that.

The pair are capable of striking up a dangerous combination down City's wings, one that could play a major role in deciding how the club's fares this season.

Huckerby has been the catalyst of much of what is good about Norwich since arriving in a blaze of glory during the winter of 2002-2003. Croft, he believes, could have the same impact.

“He is a right winger and we haven't had a right winger for a few seasons, so it's nice to get a proper player who can play there,” said Huckerby. “He's probably a little bit down on fitness because he has come back a little bit later than us and we might have to bed him in gradually, but hopefully he will be a good player.”

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Ominously, his description of Croft could easily apply to Huckerby himself.

“He takes people on and he is dangerous and hopefully the fans will like him.”

Both have something in common, having left Manchester City for a life in Norfolk, but Huckerby has had little need to put a comforting and welcoming arm around the 21-year-old new boy.

“We have spoken - he is a young lad but he's not daft, he knows the game a little bit and he realises this is a good club and we need to be pushing on more than we did last season,” said Huckerby.

“He was just a young kid coming through - they had high hopes of him at City while I was there. He probably didn't play as much as he would like, but City is a big squad and this gives him a good chance to go and prove himself now. He hasn't played that many games and it is up to him to go and establish himself in the team.

“Hopefully we will score goals and create chances, but we have to do the other side as well. We conceded a lot of goals last year and as a team we have to stop that, so we will be looking to work on things both ends of the pitch.

“We have to be stronger and more solid and hopefully we have worked on things that can help us do that in the season.”

The pre-season workload has been unashamedly tougher than ever at Colney this season as City attempt to clear all the gremlins from last season.

“It has been difficult, but I think it is what we needed,” said Huckerby, whose own fitness levels are as impressive as anyone's. “I think we are a lot more organised than we were last season and hopefully it will stand us in good stead.

“It has been the toughest pre-season I have ever done and hopefully that will put us in the right frame of mind to go and get three points on Saturday.”

Huckerby returns to another of his former hunting grounds this afternoon, having spent a little over a year at Elland Road at the back end of the 1990s, without great success.

“It is a big game and hopefully it will be near enough full,” said Huckerby. “Hopefully it gives us a chance to get an away win first and we are looking forward to pushing on this season. We have got to improve our away form no doubt, and hopefully this will be the start of it.

“The start didn't help us last year. People were expecting us to be 10 points clear after five games, something daft like that, but we have to improve our away form and the things we have work done in pre-season will help us do that.

“All first games are always difficult, wherever you go people have such high expectations so we are looking forward to it. We have put the hard work in, we have hopefully got a settled team and now Crofty has come in it gives us a little bit of a lift as well and we are looking forward to the game.”

While City have been relatively quiet on the transfer market, Huckerby believes the settled nature of the squad is important.

“It has been pretty quite when you consider other teams - Birmingham have probably tried to buy 10, 12 players, but we have a good squad here, we are settled,” he said. “We would have liked to have seen a few more new faces but that's life. I am sure the club are trying so it is up to the players the club have got to stake the claim for their places.

“We have players who have been working hard and we are ready for the fight on Saturday. They (Leeds) are a good squad, they've bought a few players as well and have lost a couple so hopefully we can catch them without a settled team.

“Most of the players that took them to the play-offs last year are still there so I consider them still to be pretty strong.”