Croft's sadness at leaving City

PUBLISHED: 08:52 21 May 2009 | UPDATED: 09:39 06 July 2010

LEE Croft has spoken for the first time of his sadness at leaving Norwich City - but insists he had no choice.

City's Player of the Season says he would happily have signed a new deal had City survived the battle against the drop.

LEE Croft has spoken for the first time of his sadness at leaving Norwich City - but insists he had no choice.

City's Player of the Season says he would happily have signed a new deal had City survived the battle against the drop.

But relegation to League One ruled out that, leaving the 23-year-old to take his pick from a whole host of Championship clubs chasing his signature.

“It's sad because I have really enjoyed my three years playing at Norwich, although we've been struggling, especially for most of this season,” said Croft.

“I've enjoyed playing at Norwich and living there and it will be a shame to leave, but I just feel at this time it's the right thing to do.

“It just felt it was time to move on.

“We had been in discussions before we were really in the relegation battle, but then after we were relegated I had more discussions and I just felt it was time for me to move on and hopefully try and better myself.”

Had City survived it might have been a very different story.

“I would loved to have stayed,” he said. “We spoke about contracts and as long as we could have come to an agreement on that side of things I would have stayed. I was settled, I loved it - I enjoyed playing and it was a lovely place to play your football.

“I had no reason to want to leave, but things didn't work out and regretfully I have to move on in my career.

“It's nothing to do with money - it's a football thing. If we'd stayed up I would have been talking to the gaffer and we would have been coming to an agreement right now to stay for another three or four years.

“That wasn't to be and at this point in my career I need to be playing at the highest level possible.”

Croft - signed from Manchester City for a reported £600,000 in the summer of 2006 - leaves Carrow Road for nothing, after City failed to follow up initial talks of a contract extension.

“It was mentioned at some point last year, but that never materialised,” he said. “It was put off and put off and when we started to talk again it was a case of waiting to see what position we were in. I didn't really want to be worried about contracts and things, I just wanted to play and hopefully concentrate on football.

“The main aim was to try and keep the club up, not about me signing a contract.”

Now Croft believes City must resist the overtures to other top players if they are to bounce straight back.

“I think for Norwich's sake they need to try and keep the best players in order for them to bounce back up and get back to where they belong,” he said.

“They don't want to stay down in League One and I certainly hope they don't stay there more than a year, but I think for them to do that it is essential they keep their best players.

“David Marshall's already gone but the likes of Sammy (Clingan), Wes (Hoolanan) and Doc (Gary Doherty) you need to keep.

“I hope that Norwich do keep the majority of the players and they come straight back up.

“I hope Gunny does well, I really enjoyed working with Gunny and Chippy and Ian Butterworth - I am sure, and I hope, they will do a good job and march straight back up.”

While several Championship clubs have been linked with Croft, the player hasn't yet spoken to any prospective new employers.

“There are teams interested, which is flattering,” he said. “I just want to go somewhere where I'm going to play football and enjoy my football like I have done at Norwich, somewhere we can get a bit of success and are pushing to win things.”

But Norwich won't be far from his mind.

“The fans have been terrific to me and everyone else,” he said. “If they keep supporting them and keep turning out in their numbers the players will respond.

“I want to thank the fans, because they were brilliant to me. I appreciate that - I always appreciated their support.”

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