City wait for right time to unleash Lee

PUBLISHED: 13:56 01 August 2006 | UPDATED: 09:32 14 September 2010

DAVID CUFFLEY

New signing Lee Croft is not guaranteed a place in the Norwich City side for Saturday's opening Coca-Cola Championship match at Leeds. The 21-year-old winger, who has signed a three-year contract with the Canaries after completing his move from Manchester City, trained with his new team-mates for the first time at Colney on Monday.

New signing Lee Croft is not guaranteed a place in the Norwich City side for Saturday's opening Coca-Cola Championship match at Leeds.

The 21-year-old winger, who has signed a three-year contract with the Canaries after completing his move from Manchester City, trained with his new team-mates for the first time at Colney yesterday.

But manager Nigel Worthington said he was anxious not to rush his first summer signing into action before he is ready, given that he has trained and played less than his new colleagues over the past month.

“Because Manchester City are in the Premiership, he's started a bit later so he's behind us as far as the work's concerned. He's come in this morning, he's joined in very well, he's looked well but we'll need to keep getting a little bit of work into him to get him pumped up to our levels and that will take a period of weeks to do that,” said Worthington.

“So we'll monitor the situation and what's right for him. The last thing we would want to do is bring him in, unleash him and he gets injured through being pushed too hard, so we'll manage him carefully.”

Asked whether Croft would be ready to play to Elland Road, Worthington would only say: “He'll be available for Leeds as far as the squad's concerned.”

City said the fee for Croft was “around £700,000” - which tallies with Worthington's original assertion that it was £600,000 plus a further £100,000 if they win promotion, one target the player has set his sights on.

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

He said his visit to Norwich last Wednesday, when he watched Craig Fleming's testimonial against Newcastle, had convinced him about the move, despite offers of better pay elsewhere.

“I spoke to other clubs, yes, but, as I said, when I came here on Wednesday my mind was more or less made up. I even told the manager I got offered a bit more money elsewhere but it was a pure footballing decision,” he said.

“I feel that Norwich is a big club. I don't feel as I have taken a step down. I just feel that I've taken a step somewhere else to better my game.

“All the players made me feel really welcome, as did all the staff, and I just felt it would be a good place to play my football.

“Before I came, Norwich sounded really appealing to me and when I came down and met the manager and all the staff, I think there was only one decision.

“I've worked with Martin Hunter at England youth level so that was a plus point. I know Hucks and I know Dickson and I know a lot of the other lads as well.

“I think the players have made me feel as welcome as the manager did and I think they wanted me to join and enhance the team.”

Croft admitted it was hard to leave Manchester City after nearly a decade.

“I've been there since I was 12 and I've got a lot of friends there, but you can't think about that. I've got to think about my career. Bradley Wright-Phillips left, he went to Southampton, which was a good move for him and I think I've made a good move for myself,” he said.

“I met a few of the lads for the first time today. They were all great with me. I was a bit nervous but then you go out on the field and as soon as you get the ball at your feet it's back to basics and we had a really good session. The standard was really good.

“I've not played as many games as I would have liked but with the move, Manchester City didn't want me to play in case I got injured. I played two games but I'm just looking forward to the games starting.”

Asked how his squad compared to the rest of the division, Worthington said: “I'm not bothered about the rest of the Championship, we'll focus on ourselves. Hopefully it is exciting. We can create goals, we can score goals and the name of the game is to win football matches and certainly pick up on last season and, with the quality that Lee possesses with the other players that we've got, hopefully we can get off to a good start.”

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