Number 16 on our list of Players Who Broke Through was a popular player amongst fans and players alike during his time at Manchester City.
Lee Croft will best be remembered by Blues fans for a fine right wing run and cross for Kiki Musampa to blast home an injury time winner against Liverpool in April 2005 – Stuart Pearce’s first home game as full-time Manager.During his long association with the Club, the Wigan-born winger made 32 appearances for the Blues and scoring one goal before making the move to Championship side, Norwich City at the end of July 2006.
As Academy Manager, Jim Cassell, stated: “Lee has played at every international level other than first team senior level and was with us for 12 years before he moved to Norwich.” Platt Lane’s Recruitment Officer, Barry Poynton added: “I’ve known Crofty since he was seven years of age and he’s probably played more games for England at different age levels than I’ve had hot dinners. It was unfortunate for him that he didn’t really establish himself here, but he’s doing well at Norwich.”
With almost 80 games under his belt for the Canaries, Croft has joined the growing list of former Platt Lane Graduates cutting a career for themselves in the Championship. Jim continued: “Yes, he’s another of our boys playing in the Championship and is a creative player who works hard. Crofty is a top class individual and you just enjoy seeing people of his type that have never been a problem getting the benefits of success.
“He, more than anyone, really deserves it and he keeps working and working. You knock him down and he keeps getting up and that’s the mental strength you have to have as a winger, to keep getting the ball and taking people on, and Crofty’s shown he can do that.
“It’s going to be a very interesting future because some of these boys are only 22 and 23, so you put two or three years experience on there and it wouldn’t surprise me to see some of these players coming back into the Premier League because they are mature and we know they’ve got ability.”
And Lee had the chance to show a CoMS crowd what he could do again this season as Norwich put up a good fight in the Third Round Carling Cup tie between the sides in September.
Despite going down to a late Georgios Samaras goal, Croft impressed on his return and said afterwards: “It was a great occasion for me, despite the result. Bradley Wright-Phillips got to return last season with Southampton and I’m glad I got my chance, it was nice also to see a lot of friends still at the Club.”
With Norwich now on the outskirts of a battle for the play-offs, Croft is happy that he made the move east, saying: "Dropping down a division has done my game good; I don't think that there is any doubt about that.
“I play much more regularly than I could have hoped for at Manchester City especially after they spent all that money in the summer.
"I would say that I am physically and mentally stronger now than when I left for Carrow Road and I am fitter too because of having more playing time.
“The Championship is a tough old league with some battle-hardened and highly skilled players in it.
“The games come thick and fast and there are now a lot of sides in the division that have had a taste of the Premiership and want more of it.
"I loved my time at City - it spanned a decade - and I have to say that what I was taught at the Academy has stood me in good stead since I left.
"Of course I still look for the Blues' results first because I still have a lot of friends there."