Crouch for England?

No manager, no captain, no Rooney for the first two games, no visible or viable philosophy, no hope: it is fair to say that England have very few, if any, expectations going into EURO 2012.

There is plenty of realistic scepticism. Get the tournament out of the way and deal with the real issues in youth football, the quality of coaching and the general state of English football. Developing a footballing nation takes generations of development and well-structured planning, something that is completely irrelevant to the current crop of players. EURO 2012 is a write-off for England.
Whoever does become England manager will be criticised whichever way they choose to approach the tournament, such is the diverse opinion of English football collectively. Too much youth will be not taking enough experience and naively placing too much hope on young shoulders, while too much experience will be a return to the old guard. Same old, same old.
But it is a return to a player from the old guard which could be best for this tournament (and it may only be this tournament alone, which is perfectly fine).
To like Peter Crouch is unfashionable, and not just because he’s quite tall. His height makes his every movement seem comically clumsy, almost accidental, making him immediately unfavourable for the top level of international football.
He is easily mocked: the attempts at overhead kicks which almost always fail; his persistent airborne-fouling which, given his height-superiority over most players, is rather odd; his lack of aerial prowess and general heading ability; and the robotic dance moves, moving him more towards a character from a James Corden sketch rather than an actual footballer.
Make no mistake, though, Crouch is a good footballer. And this isn’t a reactionary piece after his wonder goal on Saturday, either, as Crouch has been in good, solid form for Stoke all season. Crouch is excellent at dropping deep, linking the play well and actually looking to find a man rather than just flicking the ball on blindly and hoping for the best.
Crouch is effective rather than stylish and, while it is easy to criticise the 31-year-old in this tiki-taka world, he’s very good at what he does. Let’s be clear, England can’t play like Barcelona and aren’t going to for some time (if ever at all). There’s nothing wrong with a long ball flicked on for someone to run on to and score – it might not be pretty or any use for the future of English football but, if it works, it’ll do, for now.
Taking Crouch would be another option, both personnel-wise and in terms of system. If a fluid attack of two wingers and Welbeck or Rooney centrally isn’t working, bring Crouch off the bench, have Rooney in behind, the two wingers whipping balls in and Steven Gerrard delivering from deep. A change of offensive system for England would mean a change of defensive system for their opponents – Crouch would simply give defenders something different to worry about.
It would be far too simplistic to look at Crouch’s international record and say that he only scores against the lesser nations. A hat-trick against Jamaica, two against Greece and two against Belarus are probably the highlights, and his last international goal was in a friendly match against France in 2010, but his record (22 in 42) still commands respect. And, really, England struggle to score against lesser nations even now – at least Crouch is something of a threat, no matter the opposition.
If Crouch’s weekend strike showed anything – other than a lack of intensity to close down on City’s part – it was that Crouch is supremely confident right now.
With 12 goals in 28 appearances, Crouch is Stoke’s top goalscorer this season. Of course, there are arguments for other ‘big man up top’ options – Norwich City’s Grant Holt has impressed in the Premier League, scoring 13 in 19 games. He is perhaps better in the air than Crouch and is an expert at drawing fouls. And, like Crouch, he maybe is a victim of playing for a less-than-fashionable club.
And to argue for or against one another is not the point here – they both have their plus-points, both have their significant negatives – but it is to say that Crouch is, at the very least, a viable option and should not be discredited as such simply because he has ‘had his time’ and England ‘are moving on’.
If England really want to move on they need to keep the quality on the pitch to a respectable level whilst doing some serious graft behind the scenes.
EURO 2012 might be a write-off but England, it surely goes without saying, should still be looking to put in the best performances they possibly can.
They’re not going to do that by leaving one of the most in-form strikers at home who, whether fashionable or not, can play to the strengths of certain England players. Gerrard would benefit, Rooney, Sturridge and Young would benefit from running in behind. England would benefit.
Picture from The Guardian

Crouch guides Tottenham back into the Champions League

A Peter Crouch hat-trick capped of a fantastic night for Tottenham Hotspur as the London club reached the Champions League group stages for the first time in their history.


Crouch opened the scoring with a header within five minutes, with fellow English striker Jermain Defoe doubling Spurs’ lead just before half-time.
Another header from the lanky striker all-but-ended the match as a contest, while a late penalty was calmly put away by Crouch as Tottenham powered past Swiss side Young Boys. Defender Senad Lulic was sent off after giving away the penalty.
Tottenham will have been feeling very luck after last week’s poor performance in the first leg against the Swiss side. Spurs lost 3-2 to Young Boys after being 3-0 down after thirty minutes. Goals from Sebastien Bassong and Roman Pavlyuchenko saved Harry Redknapp’s side in Switzerland.
After defeating Stoke at the weekend Tottenham were ready for a stern test from YB. Redknapp selected a strong side to play at White Hart Lane, with Defoe putting off necessary surgery in order to play up front alongside Crouch, with Ledley King able to play a rare midweek game with his injury problems.
Redknapp had called for attacking football before the match and he certainly got his wish. With just under five minutes gone Saturday’s goal-hero, Gareth Bale, crossed in to find Crouch at the back post, unmarked. The England forward headed in from close range, giving Tottenham that early goal that they so badly craved.
The first half lacked clear-cut chances but when they came Tottenham’s way they were taken. After a clever chip from Bale, who was beginning to pull the strings for Spurs in the middle of the pitch as well as on both flanks, Defoe brought the ball down and brilliantly finished to put Tottenham two-up. The ball went in off the post but Young Boys were not happy with the goal as Defoe seemed to bring the ball down with the use of his arm.
Tottenham were in control, though, with Defoe dragging a shot wide after Aaron Lennon had slipped him in before half-time. Spurs did have a slight concern at half-time as goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes picked up a leg injury, forcing the Brazilian to take a seat on the bench to be replaced by Carlo Cudicini. The Italian, who was making his return to first-team action after a horrific car crash last season, was rarely troubled by a poor Young Boys side.
The centre-back pairing of Michael Dawson and King will be crucial to Tottenham’s success this season as the club can look forward to more games due to the Champions League. King and Dawson were both excellent at the back with Vedran Corluka and Benoit Assou-Ekotto also putting in good performances at right and left-back respectively.
Tottenham continued, after the break, to press the Young Boys defence at every moment, with Tom Huddlestone and Wilson Palacios controlling the game in the middle. The speed of Lennon and technical ability of Bale on the wings make Spurs exciting prospects going forward, and it was from Bale, again, that another goal was created.
The Welshman looped in a high corner which was met firmly by Crouch, who was six yards out. The 6ft. 7in. striker powered home the header to all-but-finish off the Swiss side.
Crouch’s striking partner Defoe was brought off with half-an-hour to go, with Pavlyuchenko replacing the forward. It was always going to be Crouch’s night, though, and when Bale went down in the area after a Lulic challenge, Crouch stepped up to place the penalty into the bottom corner to round off his hat-trick and confirm Spurs’ place in the Champions League.
Tottenham Hotspur 4 – 0 Young Boys
Crouch 5, 60, (pen) 77
Defoe 32