Norwich City target Brighton's Crofts

Chris WiseNorwich City manager Paul Lambert is believed to have identified the man he wants to strengthen his midfield engine room for the challenges that lie ahead in the Championship - Brighton skipper Andrew Crofts.Chris Wise

Norwich City manager Paul Lambert is believed to have identified the man he wants to strengthen his midfield engine room for the challenges that lie ahead in the Championship - Brighton skipper Andrew Crofts.

With uncertainty over the future of Darel Russell, who is out of contract next month, Lambert is already looking for a possible successor, or someone to play alongside the experienced midfielder should he decide to stay put.

And Welsh international Crofts would appear to be his preferred candidate, with the Seagulls, while prizing his services, likely to accept a modest six figure fee for a player who would be able to leave for free at the end of next season.

Crofts, 25, would be able to earn considerably more at Carrow Road than he did at the Withdean Stadium, where the budget is extremely tight - while the attraction of playing his football at a higher level would also be difficult to resist.

Brighton's current player of the year, who was made skipper soon after Gus Poyet took over as manager last November, is a combative midfielder who can also play a bit, with his ability catching the eye of Wales boss John Toshack in 2005, when he was called up for the first of his 12 international appearances so far.

Born in Chatham in Kent, with a Welsh grandparent, Crofts was snapped up as youngster by local side Gillingham, making his debut as a 16-year old in 2001.

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It wasn't long before he became an established player for the Gills, and he ended up making 191 appearances for the club over an eight-year period, scoring 19 goals.

Crofts eventually took on the captaincy at the Priestfield Stadium but lost it when the recently axed Mark Stimson took over as manager, and was allowed to go on loan to first Peterborough and then Wrexham before being released by the Gills last summer.

He signed a two-year deal with Brighton in June and was a key player as the club survived a poor start to the season and the sacking of manager Russell Slade to finish in a comfortable mid-table position under Poyet.

Crofts played in all but two of Brighton's league fixtures - including a 4-1 away defeat at Norwich in November and a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of the Canaries in February - and all told made 50 appearances for the club, scoring seven goals.

With the start of pre-season training still around six weeks away, and clubs traditionally reluctant to start paying new players in the middle of the summer, there is so rush to conclude the deal, although there's always a chance Lambert might make a move now to ward off interest from any other potential suitors.

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