Well, there’s one thing you can’t hold against Fabio Capello and that’s that he keeps his cards close to his chest. Today he’s announced that Peter Crouch will lead the England attack against Ukraine tomorrow night and deservedly so. Crouch has been the victim of some vicious criticism over the last few seasons, undeservedly so in some respects.
Crouch is one of the nicest footballers in the game and a damn fine player to boot. Sure, he has an unorthodox style and gait but hell, doesn’t everyone differ somewhat from each other. His height seemed to attract unwarranted criticism during his time at Portsmouth and Aston Villa, but at Southampton he began to put his critics to bed. On joining Liverpool, he showed that he wasn’t just a tall player but a bloody good footballer too and Portsmouth fans welcomed him with open arms when he rejoined them last summer.He’s got a lovely touch and a range of passing that puts some players to shame.
Yet, there is one thing lacking from his game for me that he needs to start rectifying and soon. Crouch has 14 goals for England, but none of them have been against top quality sides with the exception of a goal against Croatia in November 2007. The other 13 have come against Jamaica, Estonia, Andorra, Austria, Macedonia, Greece, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Hungary, none of whom you could honestly say are a top quality international side.
Crouch really need to find the net against the better sides when he plays for his country to put the negativity of his goal record to bed. Looking at some of the other strikers that have played for England over the years, International football really finds out the real top quality players. Kevin Phillips, Andrew Cole, Ian Wright and James Beattie to name four excellent domestic strikers who failed to cut the mustard at international level, in fact Crouch has scored 4 more goals than that quartet put together in an England shirt. Does that diminish the domestic records of those strikers? Of course not, but its interesting nonetheless.
Crouch has a chance to start adding goals against quality sides tomorrow night at Wembley, Ukraine are certainly one of Europe’s top 20 sides currently. A strong domestic and European club scene has allowed some of their sides to become household names over the years and the money currently flowing into some of Ukraine’s top sides has seen them attract better players to Dynimo Kiev and Shaktar Donetsk over the last few years.
A goal tomorrow would begin to rectify the negativity surrounding Crouch’s International record and allow the likeable lad to begin cementing his squad place in Capello’s plans for South Africa 2010. There is no doubt in my mind that a win tomorrow night will almost assure England of participation in the next World Cup and banish the nightmare McClaren period to bed, as Venables did in Euro 96 and Greenwood in Euro 80 and Spain 82.
Crouch can give England an option only Serbia’s Nikola Zigic can match in current football and it shouldn’t be underestimated. His skill with the ball at his feet is probably his most potent weapon and would allow Capello to have a variety of striking options available at his disposal. Here’s hoping Crouch can nick a goal tomorrow and build from there. It’s good to see the nice guys do well.