Croft came for the right reasons

Can it really be more than three months ago since we played our final game of season 2005/2006 at home to Wolves? With memories of the World Cup still fresh in the memory, I am sure I am not alone in feeling that football has hardly been away.

Can it really be more than three months ago since we played our final game of season 2005/2006 at home to Wolves? With memories of the World Cup still fresh in the memory, I am sure I am not alone in feeling that football has hardly been away. And certainly, for those involved day-to-day with the business of trying to bring fresh faces into Carrow Road, it has not.

I wrote in my column at the beginning of last season that “like an iceberg, perhaps only 10% of the reality of signing players is visible in the media. A huge amount of effort and activity has gone on behind the scenes all summer - the identification of target players, discussions with players and managers, negotiations with clubs and agents”. And exactly the same applies to this summer.

The budget for this season was set at the end of last season, giving us the whole of the summer to focus on those players who, within budget, could add to our squad. Unfortunately, despite the best of intentions and a great deal of work all summer, we were frustrated on a number of fronts.

When we approached Stoke about winger Luke Chadwick, we were told that the club had neither a Chairman nor a Manager and could we call back in a few weeks time? But the frustrations were also partly financial. With relatively few players available in the positions we were looking to fill, and with a number of clubs with bulging chequebooks (Coventry carried out a share issue; Derby and Sunderland were taken over; Birmingham and West Brom's financial health is well-known), prices went sky-high.


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A good example is striker Steve Howard - a 30year old with one year to run on his contract and who scored 14 League goals for Luton last season. We had in mind what we believed to be a fair price for the player. But faced with competition from the likes of Leeds, Derby, Stoke and others, the bidding soon escalated, with Derby ending up paying £1 million plus a very, very healthy player salary and other add-ons.

And that has been the nature of the market - a scarcity of players that clubs want to sign; a number of clubs with fresh cash to spend; leading inevitably to rapid price inflation.

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Against that background, our capture this week of winger Lee Croft is a surprising contrast. As Lee revealed in the Club's Press conference on Monday, he had offers from a number of other clubs happy to pay him more money to join them. But owing to the welcome that he had received at Carrow Road, from Nigel, the players, Delia and Michael and all the other Club representatives that he met on the day of Craig Fleming's testimonial, he chose to come to Norfolk. In an era of cold, hard commercialism, Lee's account of his decision to join Norwich City is as unusual as it is welcome.

I am delighted to be writing again for the Eastern Daily Press this season. There are so many facets of the Game that are difficult to fathom; so much speculation and misunderstanding about events at Carrow Road. This column enables me to set the record straight and hopefully cast some light on some of the harder-to-understand events in the World of football.

If there is anything in particular that you would like me to talk about, please write to me, either at Carrow Road or via the EDP, or email me at neil.doncaster@ncfc-canaries.co.uk. If I can answer your query, then I will do so, or write about it in future articles, for the benefit of a wider audience.

As we go into a new season, full of enthusiasm and hope, please get right behind Nigel and the team from the word go. We saw in our promotion season how important a noisy and supportive crowd were in creating 'Fortress Carrow Road'. If we can do the same again this year, then we surely give ourselves the best possible chance of challenging for promotion once again.

On The Ball, City!

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