Croft relieved to escape Carrow Road pressure cooker

Norwich's reigning-player-of-the-year Lee Croft admitted it was a relief to escape the Carrow Road pressure cooker after completing his free transfer summer move to Derby.

Norwich's reigning-player-of-the-year Lee Croft admitted it was a relief to escape the Carrow Road pressure cooker after completing his free transfer summer move to Derby.

Croft will link up with his new Pride Park team mates today for the first day of pre-season training following a three-year switch to the Championship outfit.

The 24-year-old was an injured bystander over the final weeks of last season as Norwich slipped into League One - but Croft insists Canaries' boss Bryan Gunn can plot an instant return.

“It was a weird season for me because, personally, I actually enjoyed it but you can't really enjoy it with the team struggling near the bottom,” he said. “We were in a dogfight for as long as I can remember. That isn't nice waking up on a Saturday morning and going in with so much pressure on you to have to win to get yourself away from the bottom of the table. It affects everyone - not just the players - but hopefully they can come straight back up because Norwich is a big club like Derby.

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“To go down on the final day was a painful experience. I was injured for the last three weeks of the season and it was hard not to be involved but for the lads who went through that it's not a nice experience - especially for a club the size of Norwich. It shouldn't be down there but performances and results don't lie.”

Croft believes he can fulfil his Premier League dream with the Rams after calling time on a three-year Carrow Road stint following his original �600,000 move from Man City.

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“Everyone wants to be in the Premier League,” he said. “You speak to the gaffer or any of the players and they will say the same - whether it's this season or the season after. Making my debut for Man City against Bolton seems a long time ago now and scoring my first goal against Fulham. Then I moved onto Norwich and I enjoyed that but now it's about Derby and looking to the future.

“Derby is a massive club whose ambitions and expectations match my own. As soon as I spoke to the gaffer once my contract ran out with Norwich they made me feel really wanted and that was a big factor. I spoke to quite a few clubs but Derby showed their intent early.”

Croft expects to be granted attacking licence under former England international striker Nigel Clough.

“I love the fact that the manager wants to get the ball wide and play with width and make the pitch as big as possible,” he said. “That just creates space for everyone else as well and as a winger that is what you want so you can really do your job well.

“I know what a good player Rob Hulse is and I know Chris Porter, who is from Wigan, so I've known him a good few years. I suppose my job is to supply those guys but scoring goals is always an aim of mine. I could have got more than five last year but in past seasons I've got myself in positions to score more so I'm definitely looking to push on. When I was looking around I could see there were some very good players already here within the squad. The gaffer is trying to add to that so hopefully it will all gel together and we can have a strong season.”

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