Monday, 26 March 2012

In Praise of....Peter Crouch

In a footballing career, there are those players who will never give up.  There are those players who will always try to be better than they are expected to be; either due to physical attributes, perceived expectations, or people think of them as weaker than they are.

Scott Parker has overcome a veritable lack of pace to be a marshall of recent midfields he has played in leading to the captaincy of England in his possession; based upon being the most consistent player of the last two seasons and a genuine respect by his peers.

Grant Holt was thought of as a plodder from the lower leagues whose Championship prolifigacy would not translate to the upper echelons of the Premier League - he has now scored 12 goals, is the spearhead of his club side Norwich City and is now realistically being considered for the England squad this summer at the European Championships.

Peter Crouch is one of those players who is always considered to be a laughing stock, always cast away from a side as an expendable commodity, or a scapegoat if a side comes up short.  If he is such a scapegoat why do teams keep writing big cheques for him.

What other player at 6' 7'' would be able to translate such a lanky frame into a winning role for each side - having struggled to gain a regular first-team place at Aston Villa, Rafa Benitez took a punt on him in the transfer window after their glorious Champions League triumph of 2005 as an additional piece to the puzzle as they attempted to win the domestic league. 

He never the less scored goals in the league, and Champions League including a spectacular overhead volley at home to Beskitas.  Sadly he only won an FA Cup at Anfield before being sold to Portsmouth, and scored 11 league goals that season.  Pompey's financial dilemma led to another sale to Tottenham Hotspur, his boyhood club and the side that was the first to cast him off back in 1998 for no fee.  To get him back it cost £10million,

Yet Crouch more than made up for that fee, when his crucial goal in the 1-0 victory away to Manchester City guaranteed Spurs their first taste of Champions League football and all the purse money along with it.

He scored vital goals again in Europe's premier competition including the winner away at AC Milan when he converted Aaron Lennon's square ball, his composure and assuredness gave Spurs the one goal advantage that they held onto at White Hart Lane.

Sadly, he fell out of favour as Spurs failed to breach the Top four and avoided the Champions League at the expense of Manchester City.  Seeking a new club, Stoke City forked out £10m for the big man and he is fitting in well into the Stoke system of long ball set pieces, and his close control is being helped by scoring vital goals, already 12 this season including the spectacular long-range volley that evaded England team-mate Joe Hart's grasp, a special goal from a rarely praised player.

Whilst many pine for Andy Carroll to grow up and out of his funk and join the England ranks, thier seems little reason for England and Stuart Pearce to ignore the good work ethic and purple patch of Crouch. Don't forget he has scored 22 goals in 42 appearances for his country, a stupendous return for a man who is thought of as plan B. 

And come a major championship, a tournament where Wayne Rooney is absent for the first two games due to his suspension, Crouch can be a pain for European defences with his height and he always proves a good link-up with quicker teammates such as Darren Bent or Danny Welbeck.

Crouch is a man who always seems to come up with the goods when it is needed, vital goals on big occasions, and always able to answer the critics with a piece of outstanding ability that bucks the trend that a big man cannot do flexible things.

Credit to him.

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