Crouch: He’s big and he’s definitely Red

Liverpool striker Peter Crouch has confirmed that he is most certainly not a Chelsea fan, and never has been. And what’s more his dad has become a Red since Peter joined the five-times Champions of Europe.

It’s no secret that Crouch’s dad was a Chelsea fan as Crouch was growing up, and that he also became a season ticket holder there. But that support didn’t stick for Crouch junior, who was more interested in one of Chelsea’s London rivals, QPR. After the quarter-final on Wednesday Crouch was asked about his dad’s support of Chelsea but some interpretations the next day put Crouch down as a Chelsea fan himself, which he’s not exactly happy about: “I was stitched up a bit with that!” he said.

Not all football supporters follow in their father’s footsteps in terms of who they support, and that’s how it was for the Liverpool striker: “When I was younger my dad did take me to see Chelsea, but when I was with my mates I was more a QPR fan, so it's not like I was ever a big Chelsea supporter.” He also points out that watching Chelsea at the time was quite unlike watching them today in their era of big-money transfers under Roman Abromovich: “You've also got to remember the Chelsea back then was nothing like the Chelsea it is now,” he says, “I remember going along there when they were in the old Second Division.”
Regardless of who Crouch supported as a child, he says it’s very clear where his – and his father’s – loyalties are these days: “Put it this way, there's no question where my allegiance is now. I'm firmly in the red camp. The same applies to my dad. He's been travelling to our European games with Jamie Carragher's dad and his friends, so you don't have to worry who he'll want to win.” Of course Jamie Carragher wasn’t a Red growing up either, but he soon learned to support the right team.

As always the newspapers and TV are trying to look for names they can
link with moves out of Anfield, even more now that there’s a
possibility of big money for Rafa to spend in the summer. And when they
look for names they always seem to land on Peter Crouch. Before
Christmas many sections of the media would have had you believe that a
move to Newcastle was nailed on for Crouch during the January transfer
window. It didn’t happen, but now Crouch finds himself having to answer
similar questions. His answer is the same: “I knew there were a lot of
rumours earlier in the season about other clubs being interested, but I
always made my feelings clear when I was asked about the future.
There's no way I'd want to leave Liverpool. Where do you go from
Liverpool other than to a club at a lower level?”

That is an excellent point. Few players, even during our darker days,
have left the club for better things. Crouch doesn’t want to drop down
a level and seems to be completely happy at the club: “I love it here
and being at a top four club you know you've a chance to play in the
Champions League every year and continue to compete for trophies. I
also think there's a great team developing here and with the help of
the new owners we could put in a serious challenge for the Premiership
over the next few years. I want to be part of that.”

A popular figure at Anfield, Crouch is also joint-top scorer –
unofficially – in the Champions League. “It's been going really well
for me recently. I'm on a good scoring run and to be in with a chance
of finishing top scorer in the Champions League is great. UEFA say I'm
on six goals, but I'm definitely counting the qualifying game because
that was an important one for us.” Crouch was referring to his goal in
the qualifier against Macabbi Haifa. With that goal included he’s joint
top on seven with Kaka, but UEFA insist he’s only got seven. He’s still
proud of his record in the competition this season though: “To be up
there with such a quality player as Kaka is fantastic. I do take a lot
of satisfaction from that. But if you ask me what I'd prefer, I'd
rather the team won the Champions League than finish top scorer.”

Crouch was criticised by many when he became a Liverpool player, and a
long spell without scoring at the start of his Reds career didn’t help
matters. Rafa knew he was contributing a great deal and that he’d soon
start to score. Even when Rafa was proved right there were many critics
of the player, usually tied in with digs about his height. Liverpool
fans loved him from the start, but by the end of that first season he
still hadn’t won over the ignorant England fans. This time last year
Crouch was the victim of childish campaigns for him not to be included
in the squad for the World Cup. A year later and England fans who once
booed Crouch were booing off pretty much their whole team and no doubt
wishing Crouch hadn’t been unavailable.  Last summer’s Robo-Crouch
dancing helped his popularity, but once again it was his performances
that had won over most of his critics.

He feels that Rafa Benítez has played a big part in his development in
the last couple of years: “I feel over the last few years I have proved
myself at the top level, whether it's been the step to a club like
Liverpool, the Champions League or internationals. That's down to
working with such a good manager who always wants you to keep on
improving. There are parts of my game I'm still looking to work on;
people have mentioned my heading quite a bit this season. To be fair,
I've always scored goals with my head, but there were a few occasions
earlier in the season when I should have scored headers. It's something
I was aware of so to get a few recently was pleasing.”

Crouch had to miss those England games and some Liverpool games because
he’d needed surgery on a broken nose. He feels that rather than being a
setback, the rest did him good: “In a funny way, I think the nose
operation came at a good time in the season where a little break has
done me the world of good. When I came back I felt really fresh and
sharp and it's gone on from there.”

Liverpool’s poor run of results before Christmas meant their hopes of
winning the league were over before the New Year, but now that seems
forgotten as the players start to put in some good performances. Crouch
says this could be perfect timing: “There were a few of us who took
time to hit our best form earlier in the season, but now we seem to be
clicking at the same time which bodes well for the big games to come.”

One of those big games is of course the Chelsea match, and Crouch is
all set for the build-up: “We know what the hype is going to be like
over the next two weeks and it's already started. I'm looking forward
to everything about it.” He remembers the last time the two clubs met
in this competition he was at Southampton and had been hearing rumours
Liverpool wanted him to join them: “Last time Liverpool played Chelsea
at this stage I was on the outside looking in, hoping rumours that
Liverpool were interested in me were true and wishing I could be part
of such a big game.”

His wish came true and now he can’t wait: “Now it's going to happen you
just want it to come about. You're always focused on the game, but
there's no escaping the attention of such a massive match.”