Norwich’s Crofts eyes Wembley showdown
Norwich City midfielder Andrew Crofts will relish the prospect of a swift reunion with Chelsea's England contingent as part of the Welsh squad preparing for an upcoming European Championship double header.
Crofts aims to be involved in Friday's Cardiff qualifier against Montenegro before next Tuesday's Wembley date against Fabio Capello's Three Lions.
The 27-year-old enjoyed a full-blooded battle with Frank Lampard during City's gutsy weekend Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge – and Crofts believes Wales can take inspiration from City's display.
'Everyone knows what a great player he is,' said the midfielder. 'He's had a great career and he's still got some years left in him. He's at the top for a reason. He's a tough opponent but these are the players you want to play against week in, week out.
'A lot of the players in the Welsh team, the majority of them, are playing Premier League football so it's a really strong squad. We know how good England are but take away the early goals from the game before and we might have had a better chance. We know it's going to be tough but we've got some really good players and we're forging a really good team now. We'll see what happens.'
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Crofts was part of the Welsh line -up which lost 2-0 to England at the Millennium Stadium back in March, but the former Brighton man insists Gary Speed's squad will not be overawed.
'From two years ago, I've come a long way and I've had to work hard to do it but that's why I think I appreciate things so much now,' said Crofts, who learned his trade during a nine year stint with Gillingham. 'Once you're there you just want to keep going, keep progressing, keep working hard and keep doing well.
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'Ever since he's taken over it's been really positive, the way he has gone about things and changed a few things. Training's really good and he likes to look after all the players that go there, so they're just as fit when they come back to their clubs. He relates to working with the club as well, which is good. If we can keep everyone together and keep believing in what he wants to do, I think we have a good chance of doing well.'
Crofts is one of a number of Norwich players on international duty over the next fortnight. Striker Steve Morison is alongside him in the Wales squad, while Declan Rudd celebrated his first England U21 call up with a late introduction at Stamford Bridge after John Ruddy had been red-carded.
Rudd is part of the Young Lions' squad preparing for a European Championship U21 qualifier against Azerbaijan on Thursday at Watford before a friendly four days later against Israel at Barnsley.
Striker Simeon Jackson faces a long haul round trip as Canada begin their 2014 World Cup campaign with matches against St Lucia in Toronto on Friday and Puerto Rico in Bayamon on September 6. Academy midfielder Matt Ball could be involved in Northern Ireland U19s double header against their Swiss counterparts while team mate Dean Florence is currently with Turkey U18s.