Croft - I've no axe to grind
GARY CROFT will not be looking for any sort of revenge when he makes his first return to Portman Road on Sunday, writes Derek Davis.The 30-year-old defender insists he has no axe to grind with anyone at the club but admits he is prepared to inflict heartache on some of his best friends in football in order to win a new contract at Cardiff City.
GARY CROFT will not be looking for any sort of revenge when he makes his first return to Portman Road on Sunday, writes Derek Davis.
The 30-year-old defender insists he has no axe to grind with anyone at the club but admits he is prepared to inflict heartache on some of his best friends in football in order to win a new contract at Cardiff City.
For the first time in six years City go into the final game of the season with nothing to play for while Ipswich need victory to ensure a top-six finish.
Croft is one of four Bluebirds hoping to get a new deal in the summer and he will be doing his best to persuade manager Lennie Lawrence to keep him on, so he will be putting aside his feelings for the club who paid Blackburn £800,000 for him in September 1999.
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He said: "I want to do well against Ipswich in the way I want to do well in all the games I play for Cardiff.
"It's ironic that I could end up stopping them reaching the play-offs but, as far as I'm concerned, there is no question of revenge on Sunday.
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"I've got a lot of friends at that club. I know the core of the side, people like Jim Magilton, Kelvin Davis, Darren Bent and Fabian Wilnis
"I've got a property in Ipswich and, whenever I'm there, I always get in touch with those guys.
"I also had some great times at Ipswich. In my first season at the club we won promotion to the Premier League by winning the play-off final at Wembley.
"And the following season we did brilliantly in the Premiership, qualifying for Europe by finishing fifth.
"I also got on well personally with the chairman (David Sheepshanks) and the rest of the directors.
"But I'm a Cardiff player now. We could end up finishing the season 13th or 10th in the table. I would rather we finish 10th and, if we beat Ipswich, then we've got a chance of doing that."
Although Croft scored on his debut against Joe Royle's Manchester City, he spent most of his last two seasons at Ipswich either playing in the reserves or playing for another club on loan, after a short spell serving at Her Majesty's pleasure.
He made only 29 league outings – with 21 of those coming in his maiden season, before George Burley, now in charge at Derby, loaned him out first to Wigan and then Cardiff during the 2001-02 campaign with the defender joining the Bluebirds permanently at the end of that season.
Croft has no hard feeling about his Suffolk experience and is looking forward to his first Portman Road visit since 2002.
He said: "What happened at Ipswich is in the past. It just didn't work out for me there.
"I was out of the first team and well down the pecking order. I knew it wasn't going to happen for me there.
"But I never had bad words with George Burley. In fact, before the game against Derby we had a good chat.
"I like the way Ipswich is run as a club. It's a club with good principles and great facilities. It's run very professionally.
"I'm going to approach Sunday's game like any other game. I won't approach it any differently to how I approached last week's game against Wimbledon.
"But it is the first time I've gone back to Ipswich since leaving so I am looking forward to it. It will be exciting."
Ipswich turned on the style to beat City 3-2 at Ninian Park last November, an afternoon Croft remembers well.
"They can play exceptional football and they showed that when they came to our place. I thought they were the best side we've played at Ninian Park this season.
"They gave us a real lesson in the first half. That day they proved they can really play."
City striker Rob Earnshaw is also determined to show he is still giving his all for the Bluebirds and has dismissed reports that this will be his last game for Cardiff.
He said: "As far as I'm concerned it's quite laughable – it's water off a duck's back. As far as I know there is no truth in any of the clubs being interested.
"All I get from some people is that it's a 'done deal' and that I'm going here and I'm going there. But I can honestly say I don't know anything.
"I'm a Cardiff City player today – and I expect to be a Cardiff City player next season playing in Division One.
"I've always given this club 100% – every single time I put that shirt on. It means a lot to me and while I may not play as well as I should sometimes, it is certainly not from the lack of trying.
"There are still a couple of games to play for City before the summer break and I'm preparing for them as I always do. The only thing that's on my mind is trying to beat Ipswich Town on Sunday."
The main difference from the Ipswich team in November, to Sunday's will be John McGreal and Matt Elliott in central defence, while Tommy Miller is likely to start in midfield.