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Peter Crouch embodies everything that’s good about football — we need more like him

The Premier League's most popular player has called time on a joyous career

Peter Crouch has announced his retirement and football is instantly worse off for his absence.

One of the most popular players to ever grace the Premier League, Crouchy hangs up his comically large boots after 20 seasons as a professional.

At a time when it is easy to feel disillusioned about football – corruption, prejudice, financial immorality – the 6ft 7in target man has been a constant tonic, a reminder of football’s purer self.

One of the good guys

Reuters
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One of the good guys

Crouch played with a smile of his face and his feet firmly grounded.

Prone to endearing self-deprecation, he won fans over through suppression of ego.

In a now famous interview, he was asked what he would be if he weren’t a footballer.

His answer: a virgin.

Iconic

PA:Press Association
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Iconic

Musing on his career ambitions as part of his Sportsmail column, Crouch wrote: “If you had told me I would go on to play for England 42 times and score 22 goals, play for Liverpool in a Champions League and FA Cup final and score the goal that put Tottenham back in the European Cup for the first time in four decades, I would have had you locked up.”

For your average fan, Crouch is infinitely more relatable than a superhuman like Cristiano Ronaldo or an extraterrestial like Lionel Messi.

Watching him play – awkward at times and childlike in his enthusiasm for goals – it was easier to imagine us in his place, living the dream.

He played for 11 clubs during his career

PA:Press Association
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He played for 11 clubs during his career

Crouch was a vehicle for joyous escapism.

A likeable bloke holding his own (more than holding his own) in the most-watched league in the world.

We could never be Thierry Henry or Robin van Persie, but Crouchy… a few minor tweaks in the celestial balance and we could be him.

This is why neutrals cheered for him.

And yet, this idea of an everyman-got-lucky does him a cruel disservice.

Crouch finishes his career with 108 Premier League goals.

He is one of only 28 players to celebrate a century in the top-flight since its re-brand in 1992.

A Crouch goal meant all was well with the world

Getty Images - Getty
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A Crouch goal meant all was well with the world

His height was undoubtedly an advantage (no player has scored more headers in the Premier League era) but not even the most naive fan would say he succeed through stature alone.

If that were the case, the league would be littered with giants.

Commentators and pundits rarely resisted the urge to compliment his technique: he’s got a good touch for a big man…

Crouch is rightly proud of his international record.

22 goals from 42 caps gives him one of the best strike rates of the modern era.

England fans will always remember his header against Trinidad & Tobago at the 2006 World Cup.

The replays revealed he yanked Brent Sancho’s hair to gain an advantage; an act that would surely be judged harshly in this VAR age.

That goal made him a hated man in Trinidad & Tobago.

Indeed, the Caribbean islands may be the only location on Earth lacking in affection for Crouchy.

Sneaky

Getty Images - Getty
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Sneaky

The archetypal Crouch goal may be back-post header like the one in 2006, but his most memorable strikes are certified stunners.

His obscene volley against Man City in 2012 is probably his best, though Liverpool fans may prefer his volley/overhead kick against Galatasaray in 2006.

While an Anfield resident, he scored a perfect hat-trick (right foot, header, left foot) against Arsenal, saluting the Kop with three fingers after his third.

Screamer

PA:Empics Sport
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Screamer

Some may see him as one-dimensional, limited, unremarkable.

But you can’t help but admire a player who didn’t let a drop of talent go waste, particularly one more in tune with fans than any other player of his era.

Football needs more people like Peter Crouch.


NEXT: The 0-0 draw that birthed a generation-defining reign of international football