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Hero of the week: The everyman and yet special Peter Crouch

Johnny chooses someone or something in football that deserves celebrating for what they’ve done this week…   Who’s this week’s hero, Johnny? This week’s hero retired this week and is, almost uniquely for an English footballer, universally loved, despite having played for many, many clubs, some of them more than once. Tottenham Hotspur, Dulwich Hamlet, IFK Hässleholm, Queens Park Rangers, Portsmouth, Aston Villa, Norwich City, Southampton, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Tottenham Hotspur, Stoke City and Burnley. Fair to say it took a little time to really get his career going, and there have been plenty of ups and downs along the way with purple patches following barren spells and periods when he warmed the bench more than he would have liked. He actually holds the record for most Premier League substitute appearances. But he was never short of suitors, which must have been in part for his goals, in part for his team contribution but also because every dressing room needs someone with a good attitude and strong work ethic. His 6’7″ frame made him a most distinctive figure and he was renowned not just here but across Europe too. Retiring at 38 he leaves the stage with an excellent international goal scoring record of 22 goals in 42 games – his 0.52% strike rate that puts him slightly in front of Alan Shearer, Bobby Charlton and Wayne Rooney. He also holds the Premier League for headed goals, which is ironic really as it was often said that was a weaker part of his game and that his success was more down to having, in the cliched parlance irresistible for some pundits, even now, ‘good feet for a big man’. He paid his dues in the early part of his career when at Spurs but unable to get a first-team game he was sent out on loan. “David Pleat came to me with the idea of going on loan to Dulwich. I was a bit unsure at first, but going down there was probably one of the best things that I’ve done. It was an eye-opener – I had huge centre-halves kicking lumps out of me and it definitely toughened me up. I think in academies now, a lot of the young lads don’t want to do things like that – they think they’re playing in big games for the under-23s, but they aren’t really. The best schooling for me came during those loans at the start of my career. They gave me focus.” He’s spoken well about the pressures of being the centre of attention and the abuse: “When I first broke into the first team at QPR people judged me on my appearance. I’m the same size, and probably even skinnier than I am now. Although I make light of those things now, no teenager wants to go through these things. I had these hang-ups and I always used to cry. I used to cry at night when I was a kid of 14/15, [saying] ‘dad, why am I not the same as everyone else?’ Football fans can be very ruthless.” This is the sort of story not told often enough. This is what we do to young people if we abuse them in the way that is so routine in football at all levels, and it is always excused in the name of banter. It is shameful and one of the reasons so many of us are happy to say we are totally anti-banter. Peter, on the other hand, seems so polite and well-mannered. “The majority of opposition fans tend to be good-natured when I meet them. I don’t turn down photos or autographs and I’m never, ever rude. There is this aspect, though, that because we play football, some people believe they can treat us how they want or say what they want.” He took part in this excellent documentary about men and mental health which even if you think the idea of a Royal Family is, to say it politely, very odd, is still well worth a watch. Oh yeah, and he can score with a bloody great overhead kick. Yeah, that’ll be Peter Crouch, then.   What have they done to deserve this then? He’s retired! “After a lot of deliberation this summer I have decided to retire from football. Our wonderful game has given me everything. I’m so thankful to everyone who helped me get there and to help me stay there for so long. It’s been an absolute dream come true.” First and foremost, Crouchy gets Hero of the Week for quite simply being Crouchy. His retirement statement says much about the man. It has always looked exactly that for him: a dream come true. And I think, in a way, that is what we want to hear from a footballer. He is a man who is still, in part, in awe of what has happened to him. In an era where the football business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, Peter has the one thing no riches can buy, the one thing no-one can fake, the one thing that you can’t learn: authenticity. Throughout his career, he’s always been unfiltered and genuine. While fame and fortune have obviously shaped his life, nonetheless he still seems to be a man without side or pretension. Unlike some he doesn’t ooze greed and seems to have always kept his (enormous) feet on the ground via a great sense of humour and much self-deprecation. They were obviously his go-to tools for coping with bullies and abusers and it is ironic that these qualities, developed in harsh circumstances, that will serve him well in his post-playing career. Somewhat more self-aware than the average player, in his later years he’s begun to develop a media career which most notably has seen the high-profile That Peter Crouch Podcast become, over two series, an absolute must-listen. Here we learned that footballers have their underwear provided by the club on match day and other such bizarre facts about the frankly insane world of top-flight football in England. Being on BBC Sounds has given it maximum exposure and they recently concluded the sophomore series with ‘Crouchfest’ (They were warned off using ‘Crouchella’ under legal advice fearing being sued by voracious lawyers for infringing on Coachella’s trademark. Yes, really! This is the shitfest called 2019). I doubt any other footballer could have  been the centre of such a quite bizarre event but Crouchy, as ever, manages to combine looking a little embarrassed,...


Published By: Fottball 365 - Friday, 19 July

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