Croft relishing the battle for places

DAVID CUFFLEY Competition for places will be the key to success for Norwich City in the coming season, according to winger Lee Croft.


Competition for places will be the key to success for Norwich City in the coming season, according to winger Lee Croft.

And the 22-year-old says he is ready to fight for his place after recovering from a nasty shin injury that brought his first season with the Canaries to a premature end in April. Six new signings by manager Peter Grant will certainly spice up the battle for first-team selection and Croft - last summer's only new arrival in a £600,000 move from Manchester City - said he welcomed the new recruits as City begin their pre-season schedule with a friendly against Exeter City at St James' Park tomorrow (3pm).

He said: “Ideally you want two players in every position of a really high standard and the new lads are all looking good.

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“Jon Otsemobor looks a very quick and strong full-back. Jamie Cureton is a creative little striker, Julien Brellier looks a really good player and David Strihavka, who came in this week, looks very agile and sharp and looks like he will score a lot of goals.

“And David Marshall was here last season. He will give us stability along the back four.”

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Croft is ready for competition of his own for the right-sided attacking role, with Grant's first signing, Luke Chadwick, out to stake his claim after managing just four appearances following his move from Stoke because of injury problems.

Said Croft: “When you have got someone else playing in the same position, it gives that little edge to your game and your training and keeps you on your toes. The two of us get along really well and have a good rapport.”

Croft played 41 times for City last season, scoring three times, but suffered a shin injury in the Carrow Road derby against Ipswich and missed the final two games.

He said: “It was frustrating because I wasn't able to finish the season. It was the injury from the Ipswich game that kept me out.

“I got a kick on the shin and I had a haematoma which meant blood went into the ankle and was causing a lot of pain.

“I couldn't run or move very freely and it was just a matter of having a lot of rest.

I've been working with the physio over the summer, rested it up, and have been working really hard getting fit.

“To be fair, all the lads have been working hard and they're back, looking really fit and really good.

“It's nice to have a break and spend time with your family and friends but I've enjoyed being back with the lads and I'm looking forward to getting back playing my first game.

“It's definitely better than last year when I didn't really have a proper pre-season.”

Croft must wait to see if he features in tomorrow's game at Exeter.

He said: “We don't know what the squad will be yet but there are two more games next week, two more in Holland then West Ham and Arnhem at home, so the preparation couldn't be better.”

Grant praised Croft for his hard work and admitted he had rested him for one day during the week to safeguard him against any fresh niggles.

He said: “It's not because of injury, but I felt he has been working so hard and I felt that there was a bit of stiffness in his legs,” he said. “I didn't need him to miss a few weeks after working as hard as he has done.”

Grant plans to take 22 players to Exeter but insists he will not rush his new signings into action - and may not play either of his new goalkeepers, Marshall and Matthew Gilks, tomorrow.

He said: “Marsh has been back doing all his goalkeeping work, because by the time he was fully fit he was having to do a lot of running.

“A lot of people were off then, so he didn't get a lot of goalkeeping work. I would probably say him and Matty Gilks won't take part this weekend. Marsh wants to play but I think it's important he gets his goalkeeping work.”

A late decision will be made over whether Czech striker Strihavka will face Exeter.

“I'll see how David is today. I could still probably make him part of the squad or leave him here to do some fitness work,” said Grant.

“That's the question I've got to ask myself, although I've got seven games to play and if I have to wait to the Holland trip to get him a full game, I'm comfortable with that.”

One player who will not figure just yet is full-back Andrew Cave-Brown. The 18-year-old has returned from Under-20 World Cup duty for Scotland in Canada, but is not back in training yet.

Said Grant: “He's back but we're going to give him a few days off. It's important he gets a rest so we'll probably bring him in to start training in the middle of next week.”

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