Norwich City Memory Lane: Andrew Crofts on being in a team of leaders
©Archant Photographic 2010
Andrew Crofts knew what to expect when he arrived at Norwich City in 2010 – after all, he had some good mentors, as he told Chris Lakey
Andrew Crofts has rubbed shoulders with some great captains; he’s played alongside Ryan Giggs with Wales and his formative years were heavily influenced by training with former England skipper John Terry.
He’s even been dubbed Captain Fantastic himself by Gus Poyet, a man who knows about these things and gave him the armband as soon as he took over as Brighton manager last November. Crofts left the Withdean Stadium for a new life in Norfolk this summer, when he became Paul Lambert’s first Championship signing – but he has no plans to challenge Grant Holt for the right to lead City out on the opening day of the season. His view is that Holt is the captain – and is supported by 10 other captains.
“I think as soon as you cross the line you should have 11 leaders,” said Crofts. “The one with the armband is obviously the captain, but I think everyone is the same when you get out there. You all just have to try and lead by example.
“I am not a massive ranter and raver, to be fair. Don’t get me wrong, I will talk on the pitch, but I am not overloud. I just sort of try and show people, to lead by example.
“I will talk if I have to, but it’s actions that speak louder than words as far as I’m concerned, that’s the way I play. You do need people in the team who talk loads.
“I’ve played against Grant Holt a lot of times and he seems like a great captain and I’m looking forward to playing under him. He has the armband, he leads by example and from my experience I have always heard him talking a lot on the pitch as well. He’s done a great job as captain.”
Crofts has had admirers wherever he’s played. At Priestfield then-manager Ronnie Jepson called him Mr Gillingham at the end of the 2006-07 season when he won four awards at the club’s Player of the Year event.
Brighton fans voted him player of the season and Poyet loved him as his skipper.
“We are really disappointed that Crofty is leaving us, because he was such an important player for us last season,” said Poyet after the deal had been done with City.
Crofts’ Wales manager John Toshack welcomed the move as beneficial to his national set-up.
“I’ve got a lot of time for Crofty. He is a good pro and his attitude has always been spot on for us even when he knows he won’t be playing. Some of them when they know they may be not playing get their heads down a bit and don’t push the others as much as they should in training, but you certainly couldn’t say that about Crofty. You have to tell him to ease off a bit. We are all pleased for him, he is a super pro.”
Then there’s the link with Terry, who gave former Chelsea team-mate Poyet a glowing reference when he wanted to know a little more about Crofts.
“I was at Chelsea as a kid for about six years,” said Crofts. “I went over there in school holidays for a few days and stayed up in London and I got to know him pretty well. He’s a great lad and obviously he’s a winner, the way he plays you can see that, and it was good working with him. You can see every game he plays he wants to win and that is how I try and play football. You don’t want to just go out there and make up the numbers, you want to win every game.”
Accolades like that sit nicely on the CV, and make the move to Carrow Road a logical one for the 26-year-old.
“Definitely, I feel it is a good challenge and I am relishing it. I can’t wait. I’ve been looking forward to the challenge of training and meeting all the lads and settling in as quickly as I can. It helps that I am good mates with Russell Martin, so that’s always a good start, when you know someone who’s there already, but I am just relishing the challenge. I will give it my best — that’s all you can do.”
Crofts has 13 full caps for Wales — his eligibility comes through one of his grandparents, although he was born in Chatham — and hopes playing Championship football for City will help keep him in Toshack’s thoughts, especially with European Championship qualifiers starting in September.
“It’s a great honour to play for your country, obviously one of the biggest things you can achieve in football.
The intention is to work as hard as I can and play as well as I can for Norwich City and that will also help me in the Wales set-up as well. The more caps you can get the better.
“We have the qualifiers that start this season and if I can do my best and play well for Norwich, which I will try my best to do, it might keep me in the Wales set-up and help me play more games.”
Crofts has plenty of Championship experience from his time with Gillingham, and knows just where the pitfalls are.
“I think in the Championship you can get punished more. If you make a mistake you can get punished, the strikers will be more deadly in the Championship as well. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great strikers in League One, but obviously the next level up you will get punished because the standard of football goes up a lot.
“I think you just have to play the way the manager wants you to play really, you need a bit of both sides to your game. This team had a great team spirit last year, from what I can gather from the people I have spoken to, and they obviously have some great football players as well, so it seems like a good blend.”
On the pitch there’s a lot to look forward to, but Crofts has ensured that he is well prepared by quickly settling down roots so that by the time the season starts he, wife Sarah and their 18-month-old son Ryan will be in a new home.
“We’ve found a place and as soon as we get back from Germany they will be moving up. It’s just a little bit away from Russell, so it’s worked out all right. I think as soon as you can get settled with your family the happier you are going to be and the happier you are the happier you will be with your football. Get both things right and that’s when you can do well. As soon as you can settle in the better, which is why it’s nice to get it sorted in pre-season rather than during the season.
“You don’t mind a hotel for a little while because you have to get things sorted, a week or two OK, but the sooner you’re in the house with your family the better.”
Interests outside of football: None really, it’s just football and family, that’s all I’m about.
If you hadn’t been a footballer: A tough one - it would be something sport related, maybe coaching and in a gym.
First car: Citroen Saxo.
Boyhood favourites: Probably Chelsea.
Best player you’ve played with: Ryan Giggs, with Wales.
Best player you’ve played against: Bastian Schweinsteiger of Germany, for Wales.
Biggest influence on career: Family.
Bad habits: I get moody if I don’t win or if I have a bad game – really moody.
Favourite chant: I like it when refs get a bit of stick.
Best moment in football: On a personal level, a few – winning player of the season and being made captain at Brighton, my first senior cap for Wales, my move to Norwich — the biggest thing I’ve done in my career.
Ambition: To do as well as I can and play at as high a level as I can, hopefully with Norwich.
Life after football: I’m not even thinking that far ahead.
This article first appeared in The Canary Magazine in 2010-11 and is reproduced with permission from Norwich City FC.