Crofts and Ward excited by return to the top flight

Two Norwich City stars who have enjoyed tantalising glimpses of life in the Premier League in the past are looking forward to a taste of the real thing after helping their side to a second successive promotion.

Elliott Ward helped West Ham reach the top flight via the play-offs in 2005, a few weeks after Nigel Worthington’s side had moved in the opposite direction following a 6-0 humiliation at Fulham, while Andrew Crofts trained at Chelsea as a youngster and is a friend of England skipper John Terry.

Ward only went on to play a handful of games in the Premiership before moving down to a lower level with Coventry while Crofts was never taken on at Stamford Bridge and made his name at the considerably less salubrious surrounds of Gillingham’s Prestfield Stadium.

Following Monday night’s 1-0 victory at Portsmouth they can now both look forward to the prospect of playing at the very highest level on a regular basis – and it’s something they are already looking forward to with relish.

“No-one expected us to do this – except us,” said Crofts, who missed just two games of City’s triumphant march to the top flight. “Right from the off we knew we had a chance and to be in the Premier League is a dream come true.

“It’s what every footballer dreams of.”

For Ward the victory at Fratton Park brought back happy memories of the Hammers’ play-off triumph over Preston which saw them replace City in the top flight – but he reckons his latest success is even more special.

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“Funnily enough we won that one 1-0 as well,” he recalled. “I think this promotion is a bit better for me because I have played the whole season. It has been brilliant to play with these lads and it has been a joy to work with the staff.

“All season we have been the team to beat and everyone has been talking about us.

“I can’t wait for next season to be honest. It will be a new thing for a lot of the lads but once we are there we are going to enjoy it and hopefully we can hold our own.”

He added: “It’s absolutely unreal. I said a month ago that I thought Portsmouth would be the one and that’s how it has turned out.”

• Canaries on-loan midfielder Henri Lansbury will join Arsenal team-mate Jack Wilshere and Liverpool’s Andy Carroll in the England squad for the European Under-21 Championship.

Head coach Stuart Pearce named his provisional squad yesterday and kept his word to select Wilshere and Carroll – both of whom have begun to establish themselves in the senior side – in his initial 40-man party for the finals in Denmark.