Crouch must go to Euro 2012

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Looks can be deceiving. When Peter Crouch scored one of the most spectacular volleys you are ever likely to see in Saturday's 1-1 draw between Stoke and Manchester City, for a brief moment, the 6ft 7in beanpole striker became one of the true giants of the game.

In the days after his superlative effort, questions began to surface whether those lucky enough to be present at the Britannia Stadium at the weekend, had witnessed the finest goal ever to grace the Premier League.

Even more importantly, the conundrum that surrounds Crouch's international future has also once again risen to prominence. In the months leading up to Euro 2012, football experts have begun to debate whether the former Tottenham, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Southampton, Aston Villa and QPR frontman is worthy of a return to the England fold.

Having been consistently overlooked by former Three Lions boss Fabio Capello, the Potters ace has not featured for his country since November 2010 - in a friendly against France - and despite scoring in that game, has since seen his international opportunities limited.

Quite why, is anyone's guess? On paper, Crouch's goalscoring record of 22 goals in 42 appearances stands up against any of the counterparts he is challenging for a place on the plane to Poland and Ukraine this summer. On that basis alone, he must be worthy of inclusion in England's 23-man squad.

One possible reason for his fall from grace is the snobbery that now seems synonymous with players of Crouch's size and ilk. But, it would be wrong to think of him as a traditional, towering brickhouse of a centre forward. He is not a battering ram by any means.

What Crouch does possess is a peculiar spread of skills that often mixes the gracious with the clumsy, and the bewildering with the breathtaking. Sometimes erratic in the air, his elbows and knees are also a regular source of frustration, but the unparalleled ability to come up with something special when you least expect it, is an attribute that is worth its weight in gold.

When players like Crouch - whose heads are regularly perceived to be in the clouds in more ways than one - deliver moments of brilliance, it's all too easy for pundits to pass it off as pot-luck. But, the reality is that if messrs Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo were pulling off similar feats, then the footballing world would be bowled over by their magnificence.

Saturday was not the first time that the 31-year-old has demonstrated the synchronicity needed to net such a remarkable goal - remember his acrobatic overhead kicks for Liverpool? Against Bolton in the Premier League, and Galatasaray in the Champions League he illustrated similar craft, guile and execution, to finish with aplomb.

It's a trademark of the band of lofty brothers, whose abilities tend to be more grounded than airborne, despite their obvious size supremacy. The reality is that when players like Crouch do something good, they stand out. But, when they do something bad, they stand out even more.

As a result, what is often perceived as an advantage, not just aerially but in a physical sense too, is the same trait that has worked against giants of the modern day game.

Whether or not Crouch ever gets to play for England again, he already has an international reputation. And, as we prepare to enter Euro 2012 with a spectacularly unspectacular squad, our country's slim hopes of success against the technically superior sides of Spain, Holland, and Germany this summer, it's worth remembering that big can be beautiful.

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Stoke City
Premier League
Peter Crouch

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