Peter Crouch: The evergreen striker who continues to remain relevant in modern football
At The Hawthorns last Sunday afternoon Stoke City looked on course to suffer another defeat at the hands of their Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion and former manager Tony Pulis.
The Potters had dominated possession throughout the contest but had struggled to create any clear-cut goal scoring opportunities against the massed ranks of Albion defenders, with the hosts taking the lead through Jay Rodriguez’s stooping header.
It has been a common story during the previous 18 months for Mark Hughes’ side as the Welshman continues to wrestle with the conundrum of finding a sufficient balance between ambitious, positive football and defensive solidarity.
The fact that The Potters had failed to score in seven of their previous nine away fixtures in the Premier League prior to Sunday suggested that Albion’s one goal lead during the second half was unlikely to be overturned.
There was a certain irony when the tall, lanky figure of Peter Crouch clambered off the bench and grabbed a scruffy-looking equalising goal.
Stoke’s reliance on the 6 foot 7 inch striker to dig them out of a hole with a headed goal is almost in direct contrast to the silky, passing possession-based game that Mark Hughes is attempting to implement in The Potteries.
However, Crouch continues to remain relevant for Stoke despite his advancing years and the common perception that the traditional target man is no longer in fashion within the modern game.
The striker has been something of a journeyman throughout a career that has taken him from the South Coast with Portsmouth and Southampton to the Champions League with Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool.
He retains a respect and cult status at all of his former clubs and, in general, it is hard to find too many people within the game that speak negatively of the 36-year-old.
Yet Crouch has rarely remained in one place for a prolonged period of time and no manager has ever seriously attempted to build a team around his lanky frame – the cliché ‘big man with good feet’ has become an unfashionable yet effective tactic.
Perhaps it is telling that he has enjoyed multiple stints with Portsmouth and Tottenham, suggesting that the grass is not always greener when the striker is deemed surplus to requirements.
Stoke are the only club where he has made over a century of appearances, at least in one continuous spell, but even in The Potteries there are some supporters that dream of the club purchasing a new, young, fashionable striker to lead the line.
There is a certain unease in some quarters that Crouch remains such a prevalent member of the squad, as proven by his goal on Sunday and the fact that he ended the previous campaign as club’s top goal scorer, despite the fact that he will have turned 37 by the end of the season.
The striker was signed by The Potters in the summer of 2011 during the era of Tony Pulis, which was characterised and defined by direct play, set pieces and defensive solidity.
His height made him effective during his initial time with the club but Crouch has continued to maintain a role within the team despite the arrival of Mark Hughes in 2013 and a switch to a more aesthetically pleasing style of play.
He remains evergreen and continues to demonstrate his importance to the club whilst a deluge of other forwards have arrived and unsuccessfully departed the Bet365 Stadium during his time there.
Crouch’s goal scoring record makes for impressive reading. He sits among an exclusive list of players that have scored over 100 Premier League goals and has netted more times with headers, unsurprisingly, than any other player in English top flight history.
In total he has scored 194 times during his club career whilst averaging a goal every other game in international football (22 goals in 42 appearances). It is conceivable that the striker could end the current campaign with a double-century of goals and having moved into the top twenty all-time Premier League goal scorers.
So Crouch remains a viable striking option in modern football, despite the demise of the traditional target man. He continues to retain a role at Stoke and he could end the season having broken some significant goal scoring milestones despite the fact that he will end the campaign having turned 37.
Yet, he shows no sign of wanting to retire and there appears little reason why the Crouch’s height will not continue to cause chaos in opposition boxes for many years to come.