Ask Crouchie! Our resident columnist is back to answer more of YOUR questions

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There won’t be any live football for the foreseeable future but that doesn’t mean we can’t still talk about the beautiful game.

Rather than feeling sorry for ourselves, Sportsmail picked up the phone and spoke to our columnist Peter Crouch for a good old fashioned football chit-chat.

This week, Crouch has reflected on playing time in Sweden, Xabi Alonso, the best midfielder you’ve never heard of and… crisp sandwiches!

Peter Crouch answers your questions as part of a new weekly series here on Sportsmail

Peter Crouch answers your questions as part of a new weekly series here on Sportsmail

What level of football do you think you could play at effectively now? 

David Brooks via Twitter

It’s a difficult question to answer, David, as I have been partial to the odd glass of vino since I retired so I’m not sure what levels of fitness I have. If it came to it, I still believe I could influence the last 15 to 20 minutes of a Premier League game.

In fact, I reckon I could have done that for another two or three seasons, as my attributes had little to do with pace. In terms of dropping down the leagues, it was something I gave consideration to but things just opened up for me a couple of years ago.

I started writing a Sportsmail column, my podcast took off and I published a book, so I moved into the media and I have not had a moment’s regret. But, of course, there are still days when I miss playing and I don’t think that will ever change.

Despite the odd glass of wine nowadays, Crouch could influence Premier League games

Despite the odd glass of wine nowadays, Crouch could influence Premier League games

Peter, this is important: what flavour of crisps do you choose when making a crisp sandwich? 

Isaac Reeder via Twitter

I follow the etiquette, Isaac, of matching flavours with fillings. If I’m having a cheese sandwich, it’s cheese and onion. A ham sandwich? You can only go for ham and mustard; roast chicken is the selection for roast chicken. 

The king of all crisps, however, are steak McCoy’s. Nothing gets near them and no other flavour does it for me. I hope that clears it up.

I saw you reminiscing about Xabi Alonso on Twitter this week, Crouchie. How good was he and what’s your best memory of him? 

Scott via Twitter

One word comes to my mind when I think about Xabi – class. Everything he did was done with a touch of panache, on and off the pitch. He came to Liverpool from Real Sociedad but he had no problem settling into the dressing room, he mixed with everyone.

In training, he would rap these short balls into your feet and expect you to deal with it. You would then see him strike these beautiful 50-yard passes that would hit their target like a laser. To see him in shooting practice was also a sight to behold.

Crouch relished playing and training alongside Xabi Alonso (right) in his Liverpool days

Crouch relished playing and training alongside Xabi Alonso (right) in his Liverpool days 

We had this drill where the midfielders – whether it would be Xabi, Steven Gerrard or Didi Hamann – would arrive on the edge of the box after a ball was crossed in from out wide and the quality of their finishing was just immaculate. The sound of the connection illustrated the level of the strike.

That’s not to say he didn’t drive us mad at times. He used to take on shots from the halfway line at Melwood, with varying success. The first time he repeated it in a game – at Luton in the FA Cup – Stevie was going to give him the biggest rollicking of all time… until he saw the ball sail into the net from 70 yards.

Hi big man – what is your second favourite sport and do you have any other favourite teams? 

Tim Crooks via Twitter

Well, Tim, I don’t really follow other team sports. Tennis and golf are my preferred choices. I actually think playing tennis when I was younger helped me with football because I used to spend all my time doing keepy-ups with a tennis ball and I’m sure it improved my touch.

Goran Ivanisevic was my favourite player growing up, while it’s Roger Federer now. In terms of golf, I’m absolutely awful at playing and, for that reason, my respect for those on the tour is huge. I’d love to be able to play the way they did.

Crouch is a big golf fan and fondly recalls Bubba Watson's stunning 2012 Masters victory

Crouch is a big golf fan and fondly recalls Bubba Watson’s stunning 2012 Masters victory

The easy thing to do would be to say Tiger Woods is my favourite but, you know, I’m going to say Bubba Watson. He is a maverick and does things that aren’t conventional. 

I was spellbound when he won his first US Masters, in 2012, with a miracle shot in his play-off against Louis Oosthuizen.

Who are the most talented players you saw in training that struggled to find the consistency to make them world-beaters on a Saturday? 

Mousey Russell via Twitter

Adel Taarabt would be up there, Mousey. I was with him at Tottenham when he was a young lad and while he had all the tricks and skills, he was more interested in trying to nutmeg a defender than play the sensible pass. He had so much ability but never put it together.

This award, though, goes to Arnold Mvuemba. The name will probably mean nothing to you, so let me give you a reminder. He played for Portsmouth and came from France. He was at Fratton Park at the same time as Lassana Diarra, Sulley Muntari and Kanu and left them for dead every day.

Arnold Mvuemba struggled to take his form in training onto the pitch at Portsmouth

Arnold Mvuemba struggled to take his form in training onto the pitch at Portsmouth

He had everything in training and I mean everything. He was strong, he was quick; he could pass, he could tackle. Every day you would look at him and think to yourself: “wow!” but then it came to the weekend and Arnold would disappear without a trace.

I don’t know whether it was nerves, all I know is that he only played 14 games over two seasons before returning to France for spells with Lorient and Lyon. He’s probably the best midfielder you never knew had been in the Premier League.

As someone who has been managed by Sean Dyche, how do you think he would do at a Big Six club? Would he have to change his management style? 

Richard L via email

If you mean would his teams play more expansively, Richard, I think he would. I wouldn’t underestimate the way Burnley do things, though, and he has recruited some very talented players to keep his team in the Premier League for the last four years in a row.

One thing that Sean wouldn’t change is the way he goes about recruitment. I look at the mistakes that clubs such as Arsenal and Manchester United have made – and the money they have wasted – and compare it to what has gone on at Burnley.

Sean is absolutely meticulous when it comes to bringing a player in. He wants to know about their character, he wants to understand whether they will fit in to the dressing room and the team. His success rate is incredibly high. He wouldn’t abandon those values if he moved to a bigger club.

Crouch believes Sean Dyche would play a more expansive football if he was at a top six side

Crouch believes Sean Dyche would play a more expansive football if he was at a top six side

Peter, how are you finding home schooling? In your days at school were you a teacher’s pet or the lad who would get sent for detention? 

Ollie via email

Somewhere in the middle, Ollie! I got on well with all my teachers and loved every second of going to school at Drayton Manor High School in Ealing. I always loved a laugh – that has never changed – but there were times when I went it too far.

Do you remember getting two yellow cards against Crewe early in your career? I spotted your skills then and knew you would go far… 

Hugh Ashworth via Twitter

I do indeed, Hugh. My memories of that game are so vivid. It was April 2001, I scored QPR’s first goal by going round a defender drilling a shot in. I got a harsh booking before half-time then got a second for causing obstruction at a free-kick. It was a pathetic decision.

Crouch recalls being sent off against Crewe in April - a game he was being scouted in

Crouch recalls being sent off against Crewe in April – a game he was being scouted in

We were leading 2-0 when I got sent-off and I remember standing in the tunnel, having been showered, watching the last five minutes. Crewe scored in the 85th minute then again in the 90th minute. I knew I was going to get the blame for us dropping points.

Something good came out of that game at Gresty Road, though. Graham Taylor had come to watch and his picture was published in the papers. The speculation began that he had come to see me and a few weeks later, it all came true when I signed for Aston Villa.

Crouchie, I only recently discovered that you had a spell playing on loan in Sweden. What was the experience like and how is your Swedish? 

David Reynolds via Twitter

I can’t speak a word of Swedish, David. Thankfully all the boys in the dressing room spoke English and they were as good as gold. 

The experience of going to play IFK Hasselholm was absolutely brilliant. I went when I was 17 from Tottenham with a defender called Alton Thelwell.

Hasselholm was miles from anywhere but there was still fun to be had – the pub in the village was called the Red Lion – and we trained a 4pm every day. 

Those three months turned out to be one of the best experiences I have ever had. Until next week, stay safe and well.



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