The Graduates: No.16 Lee Croft
- Wed 12 Oct 2011, 11:46AM
- Posted by David Clayton
After spending 11 years at City and clocking up 32 appearances in the first-team, Lee Croft never quite established himself in the senior team.
Despite being England’s most capped youth player of all time after notching up more than 40 caps for his country at various age levels, he was rarely more than a sub for the Blues with only four starts to his name.
Croft joined as a budding 12-year-old after being spotted playing for his local team Garswood United and after progressing through the ranks, he was part of the City youth team that reached the semis of the FA Youth Cup in 2003.
He finally made his debut aged 19 against Bolton Wanderers on 7 March 2005 coming on as a substitute, though this was to be Kevin Keegan’s final game in charge.
His first Premier League start came seven months later against Aston Villa. A week later he scored his first goal for City against Fulham and he finished the 2005/06 campaign with 25 appearances - 21 from the bench.
Frustrated at the lack of opportunities, Lee left City for Norwich for a fee of around £700,000 the following July. He scored his first goal for the Canaries against Luton in a 3-2 win in August 2006.
The 2008/09 campaign saw Croft play arguably the best football of his career to date and after scoring in the East Anglican derby against Ipswich Town, he went on to be voted the club’s player of the season.
Croft played 131 times for Norwich in total, scoring nine goals along the way before making a switch to Derby County in 2009.
However, as Derby struggled in the league, so did Croft. He could not keep his place in the side and following a hamstring injury in late February 2010 Croft only managed to make three appearances in the final months of the campaign.
Seemingly surplus to requirements in the East Midlands and not even given a squad number, the 2010/11 season saw Croft loaned out to Huddersfield Town where his career again seemed to go into reverse.
But despite things not working out with the Terriers, he returned to Pride Park and has so far been a regular fixture in the Rams’ match-day squad this season, proving perhaps that the Academy produces strong, determined characters as well as talented footballers.