Worthy's bargain buy

CHRIS LAKEY Lee Croft - who turned down more money elsewhere to join Norwich City - has been hailed a summer bargain by Nigel Worthington. For £700,000, Worthington has got a 21-year-old from Manchester City who has solved a long-standing tactical problem - and who admitted he was sold on Norwich even before he had been given the tour of the facilities.

CHRIS LAKEY

Lee Croft - who turned down more money elsewhere to join Norwich City - has been hailed a summer bargain by Nigel Worthington.

For £700,000, Worthington has got a 21-year-old from Manchester City who has solved a long-standing tactical problem - and who admitted he was sold on Norwich even before he had been given the traditional grand tour of the facilities.

“I would say I have got a snip, I think he is a snip at that price,” said Worthington. “Hopefully he will prove that through his ability, will improve as a player whilst he is here and, first of all, help take Norwich forward and, secondly, be a very, very good investment for the football club.


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“We have waited a long time for the first signing. I am absolutely delighted with the business we have done for the price we have done it at because I think he will be a great addition to the club.”

Croft spoke to ex-Manchester City players Darren Huckerby and Dickson Etuhu about the possible move, but said yesterday that he didn't need too much persuading, with Wednesday's visit, which took in the game against Newcastle, almost a rubber-stamping exercise.

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“I spoke to other clubs, but, as I said, when I came here on Wednesday my mind was more or less made up,” he said. “I did speak to other clubs and I even told the manager that I got offered more money elsewhere as well, but it was a pure footballing decision and that is how I felt when I came down to the club and they made me feel so welcome. I am just looking forward to starting.

“I came to the game and all the players made me feel really welcome, I just felt it would be a good place to play my football, a really nice place to be.”

So how long did it take up make up his mind?

“Straight away,” said Croft. “I'd say even before I came Norwich sounded really appealing to me. When I came down and met the manager and the staff there was only one decision.

“I have worked with Martin Hunter at England youth level and that was a plus point. Obviously I knew a lot of the players - Hucks and I know Dickson and I know a few of the young lads as well, there were a lot of plus points.

“I spoke to Hucks, I even spoke to Dickson when he came off after the Newcastle game and he said how much he likes it down here and said it is a good place to play football. I think the players have made me feel as welcome as the manager did. I think they want me to join and enhance the team and enhance the squad.”

Croft has left Manchester City after just 32 appearances - 28 as a sub - and one goal, with the prospect of regular first team football, rather than a drop down to the Championship, firmly in his mind.

“I didn't see it that way because I feel Norwich are a big club and I don't feel as if I have taken a step down,” he said. “I just feel I have taken a step to somewhere else to better my game and hopefully we can have a good season here and I can be back there again next season with Norwich.

“I didn't want to be a fringe player again this year I didn't want to be coming on for 25 minutes. I wanted to come here and enhance my career and play games and hopefully help Norwich get back into the Premier League, that is my main aim.

“It was hard because I have been there since I was 12 and I've got a lot of friends there, but you can't think about that. I have got to think about my career. Bradley (Wright-Phillips) left at the beginning of the season, he went to Southampton, which I think was a good move for him and I think coming here is a good for myself as well.”

Croft joined his team-mates for training yesterday morning and Worthington admitted his presence had provided a lift at the Colney training centre.

“They have taken to him very well,” he said. “It is always good to have a fresh face in the dressing room and on the training field and there is a bounce there this morning, a nice freshness which is good.”

However, Worthington did not guarantee Croft a starting place in the Championship opener at Leeds on Saturday.

“Because Manchester City are in the Premiership they start a little later so he is behind us as far as the work is concerned,” he said. “He has joined in very well, but we will need to keep getting a little bit of work into him to get him topped up to our level and that will take a period of weeks to do that.

“We will monitor the situation, what is right for him, because the last thing we'd want is bring him in, unleash him and he gets injured through being pushed too hard. We will manage him carefully, hopefully guide him through where we can get the work into him, he is getting some football in the first team and everything comes together and he is off and running.

“He will be available for Leeds as far as the squad is concerned.”

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