Sven Goran Eriksson has included Reds striker Peter Crouch in his England squad for the weekend friendly against Argentina in Geneva. He is joined by team-mate Steven Gerrard in the squad, but Jamie Carragher has been ruled out with an injury picked up in the 2-0 win over Aston Villa on Saturday.
Crouch has suffered jeers during his last two England games, not surprising though considering the games were played at the home of American-owned Manchester United. Crouch has also got a lot of stick from “experts” due to his lack of a goal in his 16 games for club and country since he made his debut for England at the end of last season. Eriksson, like Liverpool boss Benitez, feels that goals are only part of what makes Crouch an important player to have available, and feels that the jeers are damaging to England. Speaking yesterday, Eriksson said: “It’s a pity – he will not be better by being booed. Crouch is maybe not the most elegant footballer in the world but he’s very, very special.”
Crouch made the difference at Villa Park on Saturday, involved heavily in the build up to the penalty and also the second goal. The media are obsessed with his height, but his control of the ball at his feet is also an important aspect of his game, as is the fact he puts so much work in when he’s on the pitch. Eriksson is fond of him: “He’s a good boy, very honest, a hard worker, and against Austria he covered a lot of ground, more than any other England player, and that is very strange. Normally a centre-forward doesn’t do that. He’s very special. He is more special than any other footballer I have ever had.”
Eriksson also feels that Crouch will get better with every game: “Crouch is young, inexperienced, but every time he plays for Liverpool he gets more and more experience. I don’t know if he will be in the squad for the World Cup next summer. But I would like to have him in because he is very, very special, because he gives us things not many can give.”
And in terms of the striker hitting the back of the net, Eriksson of course knows that Crouch has to start scoring soon, but says the lack of it doesn’t make him a poor player: “I would like to see Crouch score a lot of goals, but that doesn’t take away that he is very special. He is tall, and up in the air he wins a lot of things. He is a very good target man, he creates problems always to opponents. I know he is not a goalscorer yet but he does give you so many options. I am sure he will score goals and he showed that for Southampton with 16 goals last season. It is all about confidence.”
Ex-reds Michael Owen and David James were also included in the squad. Reds goalkeeper Chris Kirkland – currently on loan at West Brom – was unavailable after being injured for Albion recently.