He's big, he's red, his feet, apparently, stick out the bed. He's scored twenty goals in seventeen starts (and twenty substitute appearances) for England; he's taller than an especially far-fetched story about a family of giants living on the roof of a skyscraper. He is, of course, the brilliantly (sur)named Peter Crouch.
Yet despite that impressive strike-rate of international goals - 20 in 17 starts! - plus the fact that he has a decent first touch, links play and holds the ball up well, is good in the air and frightens the bejesus out of his markers (to be fair, it's not every week your typical international centre half is pitted against a gangly 6 foot 7 bundle of arms and legs), some people, seemingly in all seriousness, ask whether Crouch is really worth a place in England's World Cup squad for this summer's tournament in South Africa.
Not whether he's worth a place in the starting line-up, mark you, but whether he's worth a place in the squad of twenty two! For fuck's sake. If it were anybody else clocking up all those goals we'd be lauding them as world class, but for some reason Crouch's footballing pedigree is so often called into doubt.
One theory - not an especially original one, I'll grant you, but a theory nonetheless - is that those who continue to deride or dismiss the big man's abilities and achievements ("He only scores against small teams", "All his goals are tap-ins" etc - all complete bollocks, by the way) are merely, subconciously or otherwise, exercising a form of body fascism - cos 'e is wel tall 'n skinny 'n freaky looking innit LOLZ.
Now I'm no psychologist, clearly, but I suspect there may be some truth in this theory: some people just can't get their heads round the idea of someone who looks so unlike the quintessential professional footballer or athlete (unless we're talking about a high jumper) being so good at his job. But the facts speak for themselves.
Crouch is far from unique in this, though. The Swedish centre forward Kennet Andersson, for example, enjoyed a fair bit of success at international level in the 1990s, notching 31 goals in 83 caps, despite his similarly beanpole-like physique; the Czech Republic's own ungainly 6 foot 7 striker, Jan Koller, fared even more impressively, scoring 51 goals in 91 appearances for his country.
And, like Crouch, these players were both surprisingly good on the ground (although quite why we're surprised at a tall person's ability to be able to control a football in the first place, I don't know).
Anyway, at the end of the day (Des), there's a lot to be said for having a lumbering target-man who can also play a bit in your starting XI - just so long as you don't do what Spurs have lately with Crouch and neglect the player's aforementioned ability on the deck and instead settle for the easy option of lumping long, high balls up to him all the time for other, smaller players to feed off (the scraps). Which is effective to a point, but not very aesthetically pleasing, and doesn't do the player justice.
Also, unlike most of the current England team, Crouch actually seems like quite a nice bloke when you hear him being interviewed. Whisper it quietly but he may even possess a bit of humility (although, unlike Countdown champion Clarke Carlisle, he probably doesn't know the meaning of the word).
So yes: stick Crouch in the team for the 2010 World Cup, I say. England will still get knocked out at the quarter-final stage, but it'll be a lot more enjoyable with him in the team - because, if nothing else, you know how mad it'll make his detractors.
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