Peter Crouch pretty much booked his plane ticket to South Africa this summer, with two goals against Egypt last night. Despite his excellent goalscoring record for England, his place in the World Cup squad was still in doubt, as Capello tries to find the right mix up front.
Capello’s main priority is to find a blend that will bring out the best in Wayne Rooney, but as that may well translate to the Manchester United striker starting alongside the non-scoring Emile Heskey, it’s important to have some more prolific options available in the squad.
Crouch has now scored 20 goals in 37 England games, of which he’s started just 17. That equates to a goal every 1.85 games. To put this into perspective, Defoe has managed an average of a goal every 3.45 games, while Michael Owen has averaged a goal every 2.22 games and Alan Shearer scored a goal every 2.1 games.
The difference between Crouch and the likes of Defoe, Owen and Shearer, is that the gangly forward has never been particularly prolific at club level. The most league goals that Crouch has ever scored in a season, is the 12 that saw him earn a move from Southampton to Liverpool, while he’s never broken the 20 goal barrier in all competitions.
So what is it that makes Crouch so deadly for England, compared to his more modest contributions for his various clubs? It’s true that international sides are less used to a big forward like Crouch, while Premier League defenders often face an aerial bombardment. However, this ignores the fact that despite his height, Crouch isn’t actually that good in the air and has scored plenty of goals for England with his feet.
Then there’s the argument that his goals all come against lesser sides. Firstly, that’s a talent not to be sniffed at, especially against teams with modest ambitions, who are playing tight. Secondly, he has only started one game against what you would deem a top international team (against Spain in 2007) and it’s when he starts that Crouch is the most dangerous in terms of goals.
In the 20 substitute appearances that Crouch has made for England, he has only scored 4 goals, with the other 16 coming from his 17 starts. That’s not to say that Crouch will not best be employed from the bench during the summer. He’s not just about goals and his very appearance on the pitch seems to unsettle teams – even some of the best. Remember his substitute appearance against Argentina prior to the 2006 World Cup? He came on with just 9 minutes to go and caused chaos, as England came from 2-1 down to win 3-2.
Perhaps it’s the slower pace that suits him, but I think it’s more than that. He just looks more confident in an England shirt. Look at how he finished for his equalising goal last night. So often at Spurs this season he has looked hesitant when put through for similar opportunities.
Crouch has scored just 5 goals in 23 league games for Tottenham this season. If he could translate his England form to Spurs then he’d have a far more respectable total of 12. What a difference that would make.
He may have lost his Spurs spot to Pavlyuchenko, but Crouch’s exploits for England suggest that we can get more from the player. White Hart Lane can be an unforgiving place, where heads can soon drop. The only way that Crouch will get all of the crowd behind him and build up his confidence is to get amongst the goals more regularly.
For him, I think that means getting more crosses into the box. By that I don’t mean deep crosses hit by Corluka from the halfway line, but ones that come in with pace from the byline, like the one that resulted in Crouch’s opener. With Lennon having the ability to deliver such balls from the right and Gareth Bale currently so dangerous from the left, perhaps in the future Crouch will replicate some of his fine England form for Spurs.