Heartbreak for Croft
David Cuffley Winger Lee Croft's delight at being named Norwich City player of the season swiftly turned to bitter disappointment as he sat in the stand powerless to prevent the defeat that could sentence the club to League One football.
Winger Lee Croft's delight at being named Norwich City player of the season swiftly turned to bitter disappointment as he sat in the stand powerless to prevent the defeat that could sentence the club to League One football.
Croft was presented with the Barry Butler Memorial Trophy as the supporters' choice for top man in 2008-09 before Monday night's televised Championship match against Reading, but had to collect his award in suit and tie after being sidelined by the calf injury he suffered in the 3-2 derby defeat at Ipswich eight days earlier.
The 23-year-old could only sit and watch as the Canaries crashed to their ninth home defeat of the season, a 2-0 reverse that makes them favourites for relegation going into the final weekend of the campaign, and could hasten his own departure.
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“It was horrible,” said Croft. “I was saying to Adam Drury when we were up there watching it, it's probably the biggest game of the season and to miss it at this point through an injury is heartbreaking, really.
“To be up there and not able to go on and influence things is frustrating.
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“I've enjoyed my season here but this puts a damper on it tonight, not getting the three points.
“The lads played well in the first half without really creating too much. But in the second half I think the game changed when the first goal went in.”
Croft admitted he never had a realistic chance of being fit to face Reading.
He said: “If I was anywhere near, I would have given it a go. I would have just played, but I wasn't really close. I haven't done any running on it up until now, so there was no way I was going to be fit.”
He has not given up hope of facing Charlton at The Valley on Sunday (1.15pm) but that will be a race against time.
“I'm hoping so. I'll do everything I can to be fit, but it's down to the physios now. They'll work on me this week and I hope we can make it,” he said.
With the Canaries three points adrift in 22nd place, their only hope of survival on Sunday is winning at Charlton - who are already relegated along with Southampton - and a defeat for Barnsley at Plymouth, who are now safe.
“We are going to rely on another result but all we can do is go to Charlton and win. We must do that now. That's a must if we mean to keep our place in the league,” said Croft, whose own future remains uncertain.
His three-year contract ends in June, when he will be 24, and he will be able to leave on a free transfer if he does not agree new terms.
But Croft, who has been linked with a string of clubs, most recently Middlesbrough, Hull and Stoke, said all discussions were on hold with City's relegation fight taking priority.
“As we said before, things are on hold at the moment. I'm going to sit down with the gaffer and other parties and we'll try to sort things out in the summer,” he said.