One-on-one: Peter Crouch talks ro­bots, boo-boys and go-karts

WHAT’S IT LIKE BE­ING BOOED FOR ENG­LAND? IS IT TRUE HE NEARLY KILLED DIRK KUYT? DO HIS FEET RE­ALLY STICK OUT OF BED?

FourFourTwo - - 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 we’re crown­ing our Peo­ple’s Cham­pion of 2017 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... 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 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, Worces­ter 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, Winch­ester Yeah, that sea­son was mas­sive for me. I went there and my ca­reer could have

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