Crofts calibre not in doubt - Iwan
David Cuffley Midfielder Andrew Crofts has been backed to be a big hit with Norwich City - by former team-mate Iwan Roberts. The Canaries' summer signing from Brighton was just emerging as a 20-year-old in the Gillingham side when Roberts joined the Kent club in 2004 after being released from Carrow Road.
Midfielder Andrew Crofts has been backed to be a big hit with Norwich City - by former team-mate Iwan Roberts.
The Canaries' summer signing from Brighton was just emerging as a 20-year-old in the Gillingham side when Roberts joined the Kent club in 2004 after being released from Carrow Road.
And Crofts made a big impression on the former City striker, who has since seen him in action for Wales, for whom he has won 13 full caps.
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As City's first team squad prepared for their third pre-season match against Stevenage FC at Broadhall Way tonight (7.45pm), Roberts forecast that the first of manager Paul Lambert's seven summer signings would prove a success.
He said: “Crofty was a young lad at Gillingham when I was there and I have a lot of time and respect for him.
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“He may not be the greatest on the ball but he has a lot of energy, closes people down and will run through a brick wall and give it to people who can play. I have a lot of time for him. If you had nine or 10 like him in the side you wouldn't go far wrong. He always wants to learn.”
Roberts even compared Crofts to one of his former colleagues at club and international level, at least in terms of energy and enthusiasm.
“He reminds me of Craig Bellamy with his attitude in training, the way he runs around, though he's not playing at the same level,” said Roberts. “He wants to win every five-a-side, every training game and has a similar attitude.”
Travelling fans will be hoping for their first glimpse of another former Gillingham man in Canary colours tonight after striker Simeon Jackson completed his move on Friday for a reported �600,000.
“He has a very good strike rate and caught the attention of a few Premier League clubs with his goal for Gillingham against Aston Villa in the FA Cup,” said Roberts.
“His big asset is his pace. He doesn't seem to get greatly involved in the build-up but he comes alive in the final third and it's quite an exciting prospect if he plays alongside Grant Holt and he's knocking those chances down.”
Jackson, however, faces competition for a place in attack, not least from Chris Martin, who followed up last season's 23 goals for the Canaries by scoring twice in the 2-0 friendly victory over SV Bergisch Gladbach in Germany.
“You need four front players and with Chris Martin scoring twice, he's back in pre-season picking up where he left off. Competition for places is really healthy.”
Stevenage, Conference champions by an 11-point margin last season, followed up pre-season victories over Yeovil and Histon with a 1-1 draw at Chelmsford City on Friday.
But manager Graham Westley is looking forward to tougher tests against Norwich tonight and Millwall on Saturday.
He said: “Any match against teams from a higher division will give you a good chance to test yourself. We played Millwall last year and that was a good game for us and we did well and I'm sure this time will be no different.
“There are times in games during the regular season when you have to chase the ball down so in that respect it's not a problem, but there's no reason why we should find ourselves in that position against Norwich and Millwall and I'm sure they will be enjoyable matches.”