Australian Four Four Two - - CON­TENTS - In­ter­view James Maw Por­traits Leon Cser­nohlavek

It’s baf­fling to think there was a time when Peter Crouch was not uni­ver­sally loved, but the man now called a cham­pion of the peo­ple has had to work hard to shat­ter mis­con­cep­tions – not to men­tion earn the right to play at the high­est level. For­tu­nately, 2017 has been a vin­tage year for Crouchy. Not only has he forced his way back into con­tention at Stoke at the of age 36, he’s also scored his 100th Premier League goal and been given his own ra­dio show, briefly. Mu­sic is clearly a big pas­sion, as he’s spent the evening be­fore our chat at a Liam Gal­lagher gig in east Lon­don, al­though he’s will­ing to ad­mit his guilty plea­sure is Jimmy Nail. “We’ve cleared many an af­ter-party with Crocodile Shoes,” he laughs. Not so easy to do the ro­bot to that one... 8 Fe­bru­ary 2016 Jan­uary 2018

You were a Chelsea ball boy as a kid – do you re­mem­ber any of the games?

Claire Har­ri­son, via Face­book I re­mem­ber Den­nis Wise com­ing over to abuse me for not throw­ing the ball back fast enough, and then Chelsea turn­ing the game around and Den­nis giv­ing me a right rol­lick­ing for throw­ing it back too quickly! So I prob­a­bly wasn’t the best ball boy in the world, al­though it was a great ex­pe­ri­ence to be so close to the ac­tion.

How did you find be­ing loaned from Spurs to Dul­wich Ham­let? What was it like for a kid from a big Premier League academy to sud­denly be tak­ing on phys­i­cal non-league cen­tre backs?

Seb Pring, via Twit­ter That was a mas­sive cul­ture shock. I was at Spurs, train­ing with the re­serves, and it seemed I had so many play­ers ahead of me in the peck­ing or­der that I wasn’t go­ing to get a game. David Pleat came to me with the idea of go­ing on loan to Dul­wich. I was a bit un­sure at first, but go­ing down there was prob­a­bly one of the best things that I’ve done. It was an eye-opener – I had huge cen­tre-halves kick­ing lumps out of me and it def­i­nitely tough­ened me up. I think in acad­e­mies now, a lot of the young lads don’t want to do things like that – they think they’re play­ing in big games for the un­der-23s, but they aren’t re­ally. The best school­ing for me came dur­ing those loans at the start of my ca­reer. They gave me fo­cus.

Do you ever get an­noyed with peo­ple ask­ing you ques­tions about be­ing tall?

Alan Wooldridge, via Face­book [ Laughs] Well, yeah, ob­vi­ously I’ve had that for my whole life. I’ve ac­tu­ally had some cards printed up an­swer­ing all the usual sus­pects - ‘What’s the weather like up there? Why didn’t you choose to play bas­ket­ball?’ - and at the bot­tom it says: ‘I’m glad we’ve had this con­ver­sa­tion’. I must get that about three times a day.

What was it like play­ing with Robert Prosi­necki at Portsmouth and is it true he would smoke 20 cig­a­rettes a day?

Rich Cook, via Face­book Play­ing with him was amaz­ing. He was a real char­ac­ter, but what a player. He didn’t re­ally move very much, al­though he didn’t need to. I think I scored about 19 goals that sea­son and he put pretty much ev­ery sin­gle one on a plate for me. He didn’t speak much, but you knew he un­der­stood far more than he was let­ting on. You could speak to him one-on-one and he’d an­swer in per­fect English, but as soon as you told him to track back he would re­ply: “I don’t un­der­stand.” He’d smoke be­fore the game, at half-time in the show­ers and af­ter the game as well. Red Marl­boros, too. The real heavy stuff. You had a few good mo­ments at As­ton Villa, though it never quite worked out. What went wrong, and was it dif­fi­cult when the sup­port­ers got on your back? Jamie Berger, via email I wouldn’t say the Villa fans got on my back, re­ally. In the first full sea­son it was tough. I was com­ing up against play­ers like Tony Adams and Sol Camp­bell, and I was the same sort of height that I am now but about three stone lighter. I can still re­mem­ber mak­ing my home de­but for Villa against New­cas­tle, look­ing down the other end, see­ing Alan Shearer and think­ing I was a mil­lion miles away from the level that he was at. I wasn’t re­ally ready for the top flight then, but Gra­ham Tay­lor re­ally be­lieved in me. Then David O’Leary came in and didn’t fancy me at all. I went on loan to Nor­wich and came back brim­ming with con­fi­dence, but still didn’t play reg­u­larly – I had to move on. Your stock was quite low upon ar­riv­ing at Southamp­ton in 2004, but you had a pretty good sea­son de­spite the team fin­ish­ing bot­tom of the league. Would you say it was a ca­reer turn­ing point? Paul Wool­lard, via Face­book Yeah, that sea­son was mas­sive for me. I went there and my ca­reer could have

gone either way. Paul Stur­rock signed me but then got sacked. Steve Wigley came in and wasn’t play­ing me much. But then Harry Red­knapp ar­rived, James Beat­tie was sold and sud­denly Kevin Phillips and me were the two strik­ers up front. Harry gave me loads of con­fi­dence and I went out and got 13 goals in the sec­ond half of the sea­son. That was when I felt I had ar­rived in the Premier League, and I got called up by Eng­land that sum­mer, too. You didn’t score in any of your first 18 matches for Liver­pool af­ter sign­ing for $12m in 2005. How tough a pe­riod was that? What did Rafa Ben­itez say? Natasha Wood­ford, via Face­book Yeah, I went through a lit­tle bar­ren spell – well, quite a big bar­ren spell [ Laughs] – and I re­ally just wanted to head back to Southamp­ton as fast as pos­si­ble. I was think­ing: ‘What have I done?’ Thank­fully I stuck it out. The man­ager wanted me to do dif­fer­ent things to what I was used to. I was do­ing them and work­ing re­ally hard, but I was try­ing to score that goal while play­ing a lot deeper. It got to the stage where I was say­ing to my­self: ‘I’m go­ing to have to start be­ing a bit more self­ish’, so I played higher up the pitch, per­haps against the man­ager’s wishes. I fi­nally started to score a few goals and the fans wanted me in the team more, though the man­ager wanted me in the team less! That was pos­si­bly where we clashed a lit­tle bit, but I’ve got noth­ing bad to say about Rafa. He was first class.

What was it like to be on the pitch for ‘The Ger­rard Fi­nal’ in 2006? Were you al­ways con­fi­dent that Liver­pool would get back into the game, de­spite go­ing 2-0 down against West Ham so early?

Andy Green­halgh, via Face­book Firstly, I had a goal dis­al­lowed that was ac­tu­ally on­side, so let’s just get that one in there quickly [ Laughs]. West Ham and [man­ager] Alan Pardew had been do­ing these dances af­ter games, so our team talk at half-time was more or less: ‘We can’t see them all danc­ing around the cup!’ Ste­vie won us the game, ob­vi­ously. He scored two fan­tas­tic goals to get us back in it and force ex­tra time. I do look at the medal some­times and just think: ‘Maybe I should have given it to Ste­vie!’ There was lots of scep­ti­cism when you first got into the Eng­land squad. Why was that, and how good did it feel to prove the doubters wrong by scor­ing 22 times in your in­ter­na­tional ca­reer? Fred­die Tom­lin­son, via Twit­ter [ Smiles] It sounds good when you say it like that! I’ve had that my whole ca­reer. When I was first start­ing out fans looked at me and would say: ‘How can he play foot­ball?’ I can re­mem­ber com­ing on for Eng­land at Old Traf­ford against Poland [in Oc­to­ber 2005] and get­ting booed by the fans. That was quite tough. At times there has been a lazy per­cep­tion that if you play me then you have to play long ball, but over time I have proven there’s much more to my game than that. I’ve had to work a lot harder, as fans had this per­cep­tion of me be­fore they’d seen me play. I think David O’Leary wasn’t pick­ing me on the ba­sis of my ap­pear­ance rather than my abil­ity. I think that I war­ranted a place in the team near the end of my Villa ca­reer be­fore join­ing Southamp­ton.

How did the ro­bot go down at David Beck­ham’s digs be­fore the World Cup? Which song were you danc­ing to and when did those moves last come out?

Jennifer Blake, via Face­book They still come out ev­ery now and again, yeah [ Laughs]. I can’t re­mem­ber what song it was back then but it went down pretty well, which was why it went on to be­come the cel­e­bra­tion. I think ITV or some­one were film­ing at the party, and when it went out all the lads mes­saged me say­ing: “Did you see it? You have got to start do­ing it as a goal cel­e­bra­tion!”

Why did you grab onto Brett San­cho’s dread­locks to score against Trinidad & Tobago at the World Cup when you were about 2ft taller than the bloke?

Rory Allen, via Face­book It was like a nat­u­ral move­ment. I didn’t even know I’d done it un­til I saw all the pho­to­graphs after­wards. When you’re chal­leng­ing for an aerial ball you’re just try­ing ev­ery­thing to get above your man. I hon­estly didn’t re­alise I’d done it, but ob­vi­ously it’s bad when you see it back. He didn’t say any­thing af­ter the game, but since then Ken­wyne Jones has told


me I wasn’t par­tic­u­larly well liked over in Trinidad, so I haven’t hol­i­dayed there!

Crouchy, do your feet re­ally stick out of bed? And if so, do you wear socks?

Sadie Franklin, via Twit­ter They do stick out of ho­tel beds, yes, and I’ve been able to get an 8ft bed into the house. But ac­tu­ally, be­cause I’ve been so used to it my whole life, I still have to pull the du­vet up a lit­tle bit and get them out. They have to be out nowa­days, even though they fit. Force of habit, I sup­pose.

Did you reckon you should have come on sooner dur­ing the 2007 Cham­pi­ons League Fi­nal in Athens, es­pe­cially as you had an al­most im­me­di­ate im­pact?

Jack Har­ris, via email I’d say my big­gest re­gret in foot­ball was not start­ing that game. I felt I should’ve been in the team. There was my­self and Craig Bel­lamy on the subs’ bench, with Dirk Kuyt up­front on his own. I’ve looked at the Mi­lan team and it was al­most the same as 2005, but just older. I thought that if we at­tacked them, we could hurt them, but we didn’t re­ally go for it and maybe played into their hands a bit. I’d scored a load of goals that sea­son in the Cham­pi­ons League and played in pretty much ev­ery game, so not get­ting picked to start the fi­nal was dev­as­tat­ing for me.

Dirk Kuyt claimed you al­most ran him over at a go-kart track in a One-on-One in­ter­view with FFT? What is your side of the story – did that re­ally hap­pen?!

Greg Vaughn, via Twit­ter [ Laughs] That hap­pened just be­fore the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal. We were all at a train­ing camp in Por­tu­gal and went to a go-kart­ing track. I’d pulled into the pits and re­alised my brakes weren’t work­ing. I saw Xabi Alonso and Dirk Kuyt stand­ing there, knew I would hit one of them and thought, ‘Who’s the most valu­able?’ So I swerved into Kuyt and, credit to him, he jumped out of the way. I pulled back out onto the track, pan­icked and jumped out. The kart hit the wall and then burst into flames. I have no idea if it was a fac­tor in Rafa’s team se­lec­tion ahead of the fi­nal... Do you think you were harshly treated by ref­er­ees in Euro­pean matches and in­ter­na­tion­als? It seemed ev­ery time the ball went near you, the ref blew... Shaun Sawyer, via Face­book That was some­thing I had to ad­just to when I signed for Liver­pool and first got a taste of the Cham­pi­ons League – and I found it re­ally dif­fi­cult. The ref­er­ees in Eng­land were more le­nient with me and in Europe it seemed like they were just blow­ing up for ev­ery­thing. Ap­par­ently at the 2006 World Cup, all the ref­er­ees had a meet­ing about me and said: “You have to watch out for Peter Crouch – he does this and that with his arms.” So I had to adapt. There’s not much point be­ing on the pitch if you just give free-kicks away.

Which was more dif­fi­cult: play­ing for Southamp­ton af­ter you’d played for Portsmouth, or go­ing back to Pom­pey hav­ing played for Saints in be­tween?

Leo Howard, via Face­book I think sign­ing for Southamp­ton hav­ing been with Portsmouth. I’d made a name for my­self at Liver­pool and was play­ing for Eng­land by the time I went back to Portsmouth for a sec­ond time, so I think they thought it was a good sign­ing. But join­ing Southamp­ton af­ter be­ing a bit of a fail­ure at As­ton Villa... that was tough. I was booed by my own fans in my first match. I had to show a bit of char­ac­ter to win them all over and thank­fully I did. You were in the Portsmouth side that nearly de­feated Mi­lan in a 2008 UEFA Cup clash. How gut­ted were you when Pippo In­za­ghi lev­elled in in­jury time? And given what’s gone on at Pom­pey since then, is it mad to think you were push­ing Euro­pean greats to the wire? Dar­ren Wal­ters, via email Yeah, it was frus­trat­ing, as we had them beat – I think the fans would prob­a­bly still say it was one of their great­est ever mo­ments. We ab­so­lutely bat­tered Mi­lan at Frat­ton Park that night and that’s not some­thing you can take lightly. It was only when they brought Ronald­inho off the bench and he scored an in­cred­i­ble free-kick that they got back in the game. You played un­der Harry Red­knapp at three clubs – Spurs, Southamp­ton and Pom­pey. Could he mix it in the Premier League now, given he’s so old school? Lloyd Ir­win, via Twit­ter Peo­ple do Harry a dis­ser­vice when they say that. Peo­ple say he’s old school, but it’s only be­cause he’s that lit­tle bit older. He cer­tainly moved with the times and adapted – you don’t last that long in the Premier League if you aren’t able to. He’s al­ways adapted to what­ever play­ers he’s had at the club and I think his abil­ity to keep do­ing it is some­times over­looked.

Did you ap­pre­ci­ate the sig­nif­i­cance of the header you scored for Tot­ten­ham at Manch­ester City [in May 2010] that meant they clinched fourth spot and qual­i­fied for the Cham­pi­ons League?

Alex Richards, via Twit­ter Yeah, of course. It had been a long time since Spurs had played in the Euro­pean Cup, and that was the goal that got us back there. We’d had a bril­liant sea­son and de­served to get there as well. It was a great per­for­mance and, if I was be­ing hon­est, that mo­ment – scor­ing the goal and run­ning be­hind to cel­e­brate – was prob­a­bly the best feel­ing I’ve ever had


on a foot­ball pitch, see­ing all the play­ers cel­e­brat­ing and the fans’ faces. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an away end erupt like that one did, and know­ing my goal had done it was a re­ally spe­cial feel­ing.

Be hon­est: did you think you’d messed up that chance to score against Mi­lan in the 2010-11 Cham­pi­ons League last 16 first leg at the San Siro? The ball only just crept in­side the post!

Kris Grant, via Twit­ter No, I knew ex­actly what I was do­ing [ Laughs ner­vously]. To be hon­est, Aaron Len­non had put it on a plate for me. He beat two men and cut it back bril­liantly. I knew the keeper was out of po­si­tion, so I thought I’d just get it as close to the bot­tom cor­ner as I could. It went a lit­tle too close to the post for my heart, maybe, but it was a great feel­ing to see it creep in. To go to the San Siro and win with the team they had – Nesta, Gat­tuso, Ibrahi­movic, great play­ers – was a real achieve­ment.

In the two years you were back at Spurs, Gareth Bale went from a fringe player to one of Europe’s ’s best – did you see that com­ing?

Rickie Cock­burn, via Face­book Yeah, we hon­estly did all see it com­ing. Gareth was usu­ally play­ing left-back at first, and it was only when he was pushed fur­ther for­ward that you could see what he was ca­pa­ble of. But even back then he would be the best player in train­ing ev­ery sin­gle day. The way I would of­ten ex­plain it to peo­ple is that it was like if Cris­tiano Ron­aldo had been told to play right-back: he’s go­ing be to be amaz­ing go­ing for­ward but he’ll get ex­posed at the back. The de­fen­sive frail­ties played on Gareth’s mind quite a bit, and it was only when he was free of that stuff that he was sud­denly able to ex­press him­self in the at­tack­ing third of the pitch. It’s all been a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion. See­ing him win those Cham­pi­ons Leagues ti­tles at Real hasn’t been a huge sur­prise to me.

What was Benoit As­sou-Ekotto like at Spurs? He came across a bit strange in in­ter­views, but was it all for show?

Louise Paine, via Face­book [ Puffs out cheeks] I wouldn’t know where to start with him. You could do a whole doc­u­men­tary on Benoit. He was very, er, dif­fer­ent. He hated play­ing foot­ball, even though he was so good at it. One time, I was sat in the play­ers’ lounge about an hour and a half be­fore kick-off, and he came over ask­ing which team we were play­ing that day. I told him who it was and he just replied, ‘Oh, right’, and went straight back to eat­ing his crois­sant and drink­ing his hot choco­late. He was a bit strange. He would drive these weird cars to train­ing ev­ery day and wouldn’t ever do a warm-down. He was a diva! [ FFT: There was a ru­mour he was go­ing to go into porn…] Re­ally? Well I’d say he’s got all of the at­tributes, to be fair… [ Laughs]

Af­ter see­ing red within 15 min­utes of Tot­ten­ham’s Cham­pi­ons League last eight tie at Real Madrid in 2011, how an­noyed were you with the way that Marcelo cel­e­brated? Did you take any sat­is­fac­tion from see­ing the Brazil­ian have a stinker at Wem­b­ley last month?

Clin­ton Mitchell, via Face­book [ Smiles] There was a lit­tle bit of plea­sure there, yeah. It was ob­vi­ously my fault – maybe I was a bit naive. I was prob­a­bly a bit over-ex­cited to be play­ing in­side the Bern­abeu that night and was too ea­ger to make a quick im­pres­sion. For the first yel­low card [Ser­gio] Ramos hit the deck quite eas­ily, though it was a foul. Then Marcelo just did the ex­act same thing, re­ally. Ob­vi­ously he re­alised the match was pretty much done there and then so he started to cel­e­brate while he was still sat on the ground, which was very frus­trat­ing. But it was to­tally my fault.

Do you re­mem­ber see­ing Harry Kane much in the Tot­ten­ham youth team? Did you have any idea that he would go on to be­come such a great striker?

Joanna Alexan­der, via Face­book Well, I taught him ev­ery­thing he knows, so I knew he was go­ing to be quite good. [ Laughs] In all hon­esty, though, we saw him train­ing quite of­ten back then and I don’t think any­one would’ve said he’d be get­ting 25-30 Premier League goals ev­ery sea­son. He has im­proved year on year and now he’s one of, if not the best in the Premier League – he’s in­cred­i­ble. We did a lot of work to­gether when I was at Spurs and you could see that he was hun­gry and had great de­sire to learn and get bet­ter. Is your goal for Stoke at home to Manch­ester City [in March 2012] the best in your ca­reer? You’ve scored a few bel­ters. Guy Owen, via Face­book I think so. That scis­sor-kick for Liver­pool in the match against Galatasaray [in 2006] plus the over­head kick for Portsmouth against Stoke [in 2008] were re­ally good too, but I think for one mo­ment when ev­ery­thing came to­gether, the Man City goal was the best. I had ac­tu­ally tried it against Black­burn a few weeks be­fore. The ball dropped to me and I tried to pop it up and vol­ley it, but I didn’t catch it right and the keeper saved it. But I thought, ‘I’ll try that again’ and sure enough I got an­other chance against City. I tried to pop it up again – I al­ways feel like I’m bet­ter strik­ing the ball on the vol­ley than off the floor. You don’t catch them like that ev­ery day, so it was great to watch it fly­ing in the net.

How hard was it to go through a spell a cou­ple of years ago when you didn’t play much? Did you think your ca­reer was near­ing its end, and how did you fight your way back into con­tention?

Aaron Wade, via Twit­ter There have been a cou­ple of pe­ri­ods at Stoke when I’ve not been play­ing much. Some­times a club will try to find some re­place­ments, but I just make sure I’m ready to play if they don’t work out. I’ve knocked on the man­ager’s door a few times, but I’ll never go in shout­ing and scream­ing when I’m not be­ing se­lected. I al­ways want to be in­volved, but I also want the team to do well. When I was at Liver­pool and Fer­nando Tor­res came to the club, I couldn’t re­ally bang down the door be­cause he was scor­ing goals ev­ery week. But when I can see peo­ple be­ing picked ahead of me and I feel like I can of­fer more, that’s quite frus­trat­ing. Do you re­gret tak­ing your­self off the Euro 2012 standby list? With the in­juries they had ahead of the fi­nals you may have been called upon for one last Eng­land hur­rah... Stu­art Steel­yard, via Face­book I was frus­trated – I’d just had a great sea­son and I been in all the Eng­land squads, then [Roy] Hodg­son wanted me to come along and train for a few days, and then go home again. I felt like I’d war­ranted a bit more re­spect than that. I’m not the type of per­son to turn down my coun­try, but I felt that was a bit of a kick in the teeth.

Do you think you will ever go into man­age­ment once you hang up your boots? What type of gaffer do you think you would be?

Gareth Jack­son, via email Yeah, I’m do­ing my A Li­cence now and re­ally en­joy­ing it. I don’t know whether I’d be a man­ager or a coach, or at what level, but I would like to be a man­ager. I’ve played un­der many great man­agers so I’d take a lit­tle bit from each of them, al­though there’s def­i­nitely a few things I’d do dif­fer­ent. [ FFT: Will you be a teacup chucker?] There are times for that. Some play­ers need kick­ing up the arse; some need an arm around the shoul­der – I’ve seen some man­agers get that wrong...

Se­ri­ously, if you hadn’t be­come a pro foot­baller, what would you have been?

Ju­nior Leoes, via Face­book I’d like to think I would’ve had op­tions... maybe. [ Laughs] But se­ri­ously, I think I’d have worked in ad­ver­tis­ing with my dad.

Top to bot­tom Savour­ing FA Cup suc­cess with man of the hour Ger­rard in ’06; un­leash­ing ‘the Ro­bot’ in a World Cup warm-up win against Ja­maica; Crouchy couldn’t break into Spurs’ team in 1998; but would even­tu­ally ex­cel in the top flight with Saints in 2005

Above Crouchy scored the only goal of the tie against Mi­lan in 2010-11 to send Spurs into the Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter-fi­nals Left Cel­e­brat­ing the best goal of his ca­reer against Man City in 2012: “I al­ways feel like I’m bet­ter strik­ing the ball on the vol­ley than off the floor. You don’t catch them like that ev­ery day.”

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