Pete Crouch’s transformation from baddie to all round good guy has to be a shining example of just how fickle we are as a nation of people.
A few months ago, with a good helping of tabloid spite, he was being lampooned as ‘Mr Miss’, a half-witted fraud who simply couldn’t find the back of the net. His height and awkward appearance made him an easy target for the only slightly funny Baddiel and Skinner, egged on by their legion of tubby followers that watch A Question of Sport and drink larger tops.
He appeared on a website dedicated to the celebration of ugly footballers, the sort of link that gets forwarded in an email with the Subject title, ‘Hilarious- SOO true!!’. You could just imagine the two blokes putting the site together. Looking slightly awkward in their safe GAP fashion and spiky hair. The sort of people who are scared by the unfamiliarity of city living, desperately fighting the magnetic pull to the safe suburban village of their childhood. Their parents, ever present, tediously filling the neighbours in on what David is up to in the big smoke. Their website is of course little more than an exhaust for the crushing jealousy that is derived from the simple fact the middle classes aren’t any good at sport – apart from Tennis of course, but that’s a wankers game, and you know it too.
With determination and grace, Peter Crouch rose above his detractors and simply kept coming back for more. He bravely ignored the moronic boos and focused on his game, and slowly but surely things started to happen for him. The goals at one of the worlds most famous football clubs came and so did a deserved place in the England squad. Oh how the table started to turn for the smug graduates and the silly website.
By the time the World Cup started he had not only proved himself professionally, but also demonstrated a level headed and endearing personality that is a tribute to his upbringing. No longer a figure of fun for the Audi brigade, now the man that two Page 3 girls fought over outside a swanky club. Fantastic. In England’s second game against Trinidad and Tobago it is true that he made some awful misses, but in an inspiring example of resilience he persisted and found the end of a sublime Beckham pass at the far post. Better late then never.
The fact that he indulges in self-mockery in front an entire nation shows a person capable of separating professional talent from the ludicrous pantomime egos that accompanies his chosen sport. I am of course referring to the now famous robot dance, of which no article about the FIFA World Cup 2006 will be complete. ‘The Crouch’ is probably the finest goal celebration since Gazza’s famous dentist chair episode in Euro ’96. And because it is simple manoeuvre that is strangely quite cool, anyone from the playground to the pub can have it. Just like in the film Teen Wolf, he has turned the strange into a unique brand for everyone to enjoy, and in doing so has forced the tabloid filth into its most blatant U turn since Jade Goody.
Peter Crouch, Liverpool FC and England.