Croft’s craft has impressed skipper Drury

DAVID CUFFLEY The first man handed the job of marking Norwich City new signing Lee Croft today gave a glowing verdict on the latest arrival at Carrow Road.


The first man handed the job of marking Norwich City new signing Lee Croft today gave a glowing verdict on the latest arrival at Carrow Road.

Team captain Adam Drury has had the best possible view of Croft on the training pitch at Colney since the 21-year-old winger reported for duty on Monday following his transfer from Manchester City.

And while manager Nigel Worthington has yet to decide whether his only summer capture will start tomorrow's Coca-Cola Championship opener at Leeds (3pm), Drury is convinced the £600,000 signing will be an asset.

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“Lee's settled in very well. Playing left-back, I've been playing against him a few times in training,” said Drury.

“You can see he's quick, he's got great feet and delivers good quality, so he's going to be a good addition to the squad.”

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If Croft fails to make the starting line-up at Elland Road - with Worthington concerned that his fitness level is still behind the rest of the squad - the question remains as to who will patrol the right side of midfield tomorrow.

Paul McVeigh, Ian Henderson, Andy Hughes and Carl Robinson have all been handed the role in pre-season matches, but Hughes is sidelined by a groin injury that forced him to miss two of the last three pre-season games.

Whoever gets the job, Drury is determined that squad solidarity will be the order of the day under his leadership.

“Not everyone's going to be happy if they're not playing, but we've got a good squad of players and everyone will be pushing in the right direction,” said the skipper, handed the armband a second time after losing the captaincy during the Premiership campaign of 2004-05.

“You have to put your point across to players and, like I've said before, it's not my job to be everyone's friend all the time. If someone needs a rollicking you have to give it to them and dish it out. That's what it's basically about - and at the same time making sure things on the pitch are going well and encouraging people.

“There's a responsibility that goes with the job, but I'm a bit older now than when I did it last time so I've matured a little bit and I'm one of the more senior members in the squad, even at 27, so I'll go out there and play my normal game and hopefully the captaincy will add to it.”

One of the top priorities for the Canaries, as Drury acknowledged, will be to improve their points tally on their travels after collecting just 22 points from 23 away games last season, one of them in a 2-2 draw at Leeds in March.

“It was one of our better games because away from home we didn't do great, to be honest. At times we let ourselves down and didn't put in great performances, but at Leeds we deserved the result, so hopefully we can go up there and do even better this time.

“If you don't get off to a good start then you put pressure on yourselves looking for that first win. Hopefully we can do that as early as possible then we're not going to be chasing it all the time.

“We want to be challenging and there are some big clubs in this league. If you look at the clubs that came down, they're all strong, and a few of them have kept all the players they've come down with.”

Worthington gave City eight marks out of 10 for their pre-season preparation - only falling short in a couple of signings he still hopes to make.

“The two marks that might be missing might be the big striker up front. Apart from that, everything else has gone very, very well and we are ready for the start of the season.”

As for Croft's chance of playing, Worthington said: “With Manchester City being in the Premier League, they are a couple of weeks behind us as far as starting back, so he is behind us, but he has got reasonable levels - I'm pretty pleased with him.

“What he has shown in the couple of days he has trained with us I am pleased with, but there is work to be done to get him up to our level.”

Other than Hughes' injury, defender Rossi Jarvis is still under treatment for a thigh strain, with goalkeeper Robert Green - who Worthington believes will be back in full training by the end of the month - and defender Matthieu Louis-Jean the long-term absentees.

Teenage 'keeper Joe Lewis will be on the bench tomorrow with Scotland international Paul Gallacher starting the season as first choice.

“I'm delighted with Paul Gallacher. He's worked very hard in pre-season, so he's very much up for the fight,” said Worthington.

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