Tottenham Hotspur cult hero Peter Crouch has reflected on how close he came to joining Sunderland, before a last-minute intervention from then Spurs boss Harry Redknapp sealed the deal for him (Daily Mail).
The 6ft 7in striker began his professional career at White Hart Lane after having played for their youth team but did not make a first-team appearance for Tottenham in his first stint, instead being loaned out before eventually joining Queens Park Rangers permanently in 2000.
However, as the years went on, Crouch developed into a quality player as his career took him to numerous clubs in England including Portsmouth, Aston Villa, Southampton and Liverpool, and in 2009, he made his return to Spurs for a fee believed to be in the region of £10million (BBC Sport).
On 5 May 2010, the forward scored one of the most crucial goals in Tottenham’s recent history, heading home a late winner away at Manchester City to secure a top-four spot in the league and send Spurs into the Champions League at the Etihad side’s expense (BBC Sport).
During that European campaign, Crouch then scored what turned out to be the winning goal in the Champions League second round, first leg match against Milan at the San Siro in February 2011, which earned them a quarter-final tie against Real Madrid.
After his stint at White Hart Lane, spells at Stoke City and Burnley followed for the 38-year-old, who was released by the Clarets at the end of last season and subsequently hung up his boots.
Things could have been a lot different, however, as Crouch recalled in his Daily Mail column.
“History shows I went from Portsmouth to Tottenham in the summer of 2009 but it could quite easily have been Portsmouth to Sunderland,” he wrote. “Steve Bruce was keen to sign me and it got to the point where I flew up to the North East from the South Coast.
“Steve took me around Sunderland’s fantastic training ground, we had lunch together and I was even taken to the areas where the other players lived to look at possible houses. I was prepared to move there over Fulham, who had also shown a significant interest.
“On the way back home, though, I got a call from Harry Redknapp, who asked me about my plans. When I told him about Sunderland, he made his pitch for Tottenham and having not even been in the picture, I was suddenly headed for White Hart Lane. I’m glad it worked out as it did.”
There are some fine margins in football, from Gareth Bale being linked with Birmingham City when he was struggling at Spurs, to Robert Lewandowski failing to seal a move to Blackburn due to travel chaos caused by an Icelandic volcano.
It’s great that Crouch was able to finish business at Spurs after being let go earlier in his career, including that crucial goal against Man City, and in the end it worked out great for all parties concerned.