Perfect Peter is the real deal

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Football seems to be evolving into one big beauty pageant. Long-gone are the
days of rugged, uncompromising, battle-hardened professionals. In their
place … fancy-dan, extravagant, poster-boys. Quite simply, a 6ft 7in
gangly striker does not fit the mould. Peter Crouch must lament the fact he
was not blessed with Brad Pitt’s looks every day. On second thoughts,
waking-up next to Abigail Clancy is no mean feat. However, it’s because of
his looks, his build and his overall demeanour, that the Liverpool
centre-forward is not coveted as one of the sport’s finest players right
now.

The genius of Einstein is hardly needed to predict a shake-up in the reds
strike force this summer. Craig Bellamy will almost certainly depart, while
the legend that is Robbie Fowler will bid an emotional farewell. With the
services of Ukrainian Andriy Voronin already secured, much talk centres
around who will join him, as Rafa Benitez plans a long awaited title
assault. It is hard to have imagined this scenario 18 months ago, but
keeping Crouch is now a necessity.

Much scepticism surrounded the arrival of the man harshly branded a ‘˜freak’.
In fact, the only freakish incident to date arose courtesy of one
excruciatingly embarrassing robot dance. That aside, Crouch has near-enough
excelled. Admittedly, the wait for his first goal was as drawn-out as a Tony
Blair retirement, but 30 since is an impressive return. Holding-up the ball
is a real feature of the England star’s game. He executes such with great
aplomb and a touch as exquisite as a Keeley Hazel photo shoot. His very
presence terrifies defenders, who often battle in vain to prevent the
maintenance of possession. Come 4:45, Kopites leave Anfield safe in the
knowledge their unfashionable number 15 has given his all to the cause.

So why the cynicism? OK, the guy is a staggering height but relatively poor
in the air regardless. Sadly, this is inescapable. Bullet-headers against
Arsenal and PSV respectively though, portray a gradual development in this
area. Otherwise, criticism of Crouch is totally unwarranted. Supposed
pundits like David Platt enjoy mocking the front man at will. One review of
Platt’s managerial record should be enough to discourage the former Arsenal
midfielder from downgrading anyone in such a manner. His views, along with
so many others in his profession, are unjustified and a mere following of
consensus.

If Liverpool are to mount a challenge next season they need to retain Crouch
and assemble an array of forwards around him. Staff and fans alike are tired
of the Michael Owen rumours. Stories of this ilk seem to regurgitate as
frequently as a Victoria Beckham comeback. And, just like Posh, then fade in
predictable circumstance. Nevertheless, somebody like Owen, Jermaine Defoe,
even Darren Bent, is required for the out-and-out goal-getting dilemma. It
is a well known fact that Benitez desires strikers offering more than a
multitude of attempts. The boss craves work rate, link-play and a
willingness to adjust when called-upon. Crouch can provide the
aforementioned. Dirk Kuyt also. But neither are guaranteed to muster 20
Premiership goals. Djibril Cisse managed 21 strikes last term, but few too
many arose domestically. As obvious as it sounds, this is why the reds are
capable in Europe, but flawed in England.

Therefore, let us not react hastily in response to the wave of opposition
aimed at Crouch. Instead, revel in the big-mans attributes and supplement
them accordingly.

For reasons unknown to all supporters, Crouch was spared a start in
Wednesday’s disappointing defeat at Stamford Bridge. Centre-backs of the
calibre of John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho can minimise the inevitable
threat posed by Kuyt. An out-of-sorts Bellamy meanwhile appeared lost,
bewildered, resigned to the fact an exit looms. Crouch would have posed a
different kind of predicament. Great contests with Terry have proved the
catalyst for victories in the FA Cup Semi-Final and Community Shield
recently. England’s captain would have appreciated Benitez’ awry tactics
no-end. It is no coincidence that a better spell of possession in the
Londoners half correlated with our top-scorers belated introduction.

Come the return leg at Anfield, there is absolutely no doubt Crouch will
start up-top. A high-tempo is vital, as too an encouraging start to the
game. Big performances are needed from the likes of Steven Gerrard, Jamie
Carragher and Xabi Alonso. This could well also be the pivotal point in
Jermaine Pennant’s Liverpool career. The latter will be charged with
providing the ammunition to Crouch and co. this whilst again attempting to
make Ashley Cole look as flawed as a GMTV phone-in competition.

Whatever the outcome on Tuesday night, Crouch, for me, has proved his worth
to Liverpool this season. Hopefully, he will execute a telling contribution
in the week and once again silence those materialistic commentators.

Aaron Cutler

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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