By the time you read this Peter Crouch may have left Liverpool. Unless there is a last minute hitch, or bid from somewhere else, it looks the long fella will head south to rejoin Portsmouth and his old boss Harry Redknapp.
Crouch’s departure brings to an end a frustrating period for him. Having established a bridgehead in the England squad, albeit because of injuries to Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen, scoring in the World Cup finals and appearing regularly for Liverpool in 2006-07 Crouch could be forgiven for thinking that things were going well and looking forward to 2007-08 with us. However, he didn’t bargain for the signing of Fernando Torres.
For all Crouch’s uses and talents Torres was in another class. As soon as that became obvious he was always going to find it difficult to stay in the first team. Crouch is to be commended for knuckling down throughout 2007-08 and trying to win his place back however, surely the he must have realised this was becoming a futile pastime particularly when Rafa sometimes picked the likes of Voronin ahead of him. The task became even harder as the season progressed and Rafa’s preferred formation became Torres driving the attack on his own with Gerrard riding shotgun.
So what did he bring to the team? Winston Churchill once described the country of Russia as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” and the same can be said of Crouch. For a tall guy he was presumed to be good in the air however, he was significantly less than that! For a tall guy he was presumed to be clumsy and awkward on the deck but he possessed considerably more skill that that. For a tall guy he was an obvious target man right? However, his strengths were ability to hold and link up play with the midfield.
Attitudes towards Crouch’s height always rankled with me. I’m six foot three and was therefore always assumed to be good in the air when I played football. However, sadly I had a “glass head” and the strongest part of my game was on the deck! Crouch had the same problem, albeit at a considerably higher standard, constantly battling against preconceived expectations from managers and fans alike that for example, height and ariel prowess go together hand in glove. Not so!
Crouch’s talents were undoubted but ultimately not consistent enough. For the “perfect hat trick” against Arsenal, the vital goals against Galatasaray and The Mancs (in the FA Cup the season before) we see the hat trick of vital misses against Blackburn earlier in the season, when we were 1-0 down. He scored 18 goals in 2006-07 but how many did he miss? However, towards the end of his spell he was underused and put in difficult situation when he was. I remember feeling so sorry for him in the first half against Toulouse, his frustration and disappointment, at missing a few chances when he had been given a rare opportunity to prove to Rafa he was worthy of regular first team place, was written over his face.
Perhaps Crouch wouldn’t have attached half the problems, debate and attention had he been say a foot smaller? However, it was probably his appearance and the “freak” abuse he took from opposing fans because of it, and the way he was ignored in 2007-08, which endeared him to most Liverpool fans and made them protective of him. Who can forget the moment, against Wigan, when after an age he finally got his first goal for us. His attitude was excellent, modest and laid back in an age were all too many footballers display far more self importance than there abilities merit.
Ultimately Crouch cannot be blamed for leaving. He had to look after himself. Good luck to him. He deserves it.