Deadly Crouch dents City title charge
Another interesting week in the Premier League, at the top and bottom, and I would like to start at the Britannia Stadium with the game between Stoke City and Manchester City. This was a game that I thought would prove a potential banana skin for City, not just because the Britannia is always a difficult place for opposing teams but City’s record there since Stoke got promoted is not great at all. In fact, looking at the results over the past few years, City have failed to register a win.
Stoke, I thought, were excellent and showed what they are all about. Grit, determination and a never-say-die attitude that has seen them finish comfortably in the Premier each season. City, at times, looked shell-shocked at the physical side to Stoke but that is something that you have to deal with when going there. Stoke are a fair team and I don’t think they break any rules when playing. They just play to their strength.
OK, it might not be pretty to watch, but it is so effective and has given the club great success over the past few years. For all the talk about them being a bully-boy team, surely we saw the goal of the season from Peter Crouch. The execution of the volley was outstanding and the finish just as deadly. City came back strongly in the second half but I think that Stoke fully deserved their draw and it’s now possibly advantage Manchester United if they can beat Fulham at home tonight, which I feel they will easily.
Back to Crouch. It would seem that he and Stoke are a match made in heaven and his recent performances would state that case. I honestly believe that he should be on the plane with England to Euro 2012 in the summer because he gives you something different and, regardless what people say, he is proven at international level. His goalscoring record is remarkable, with 22 goals from 42 appearences. That is better than one in two. How many players around the world can boast a better strike rate than that for their country? Not many, I imagine.
I have played against Peter on a few occasions and he has always been a handful for my team’s defenders, whatever club I was at. The way defenders go to challenge for a header with him … then he just chests the ball down and cleverly brings others into play. I’m not saying that he should be an automatic starter for England but he would be a great player to have on the bench if a game and tactics needed to be changed in any way. I’m sure if Harry Redknapp gets the job as manager, which he should, then Crouch will be going to the Euros and I would be very happy to see him there.
Now, to other events. The result of the day surely has to be Wigan’s 2-1 win at Anfield. Liverpool are not having the greatest of seasons, especially in the Premier, but what has helped them is that they have won the Carling Cup and are in the semis of the FA Cup. Don’t forget, though, that over the last year they have been big spenders and although they got big money for Fernando Torres, I truly feel that they have massively underachieved given the size, stature and players at the club.
Let me tell you this: if it wasn’t Kenny Dalglish in charge – who is effectively Mr Liverpool, having been such a legend as a player there and a great manager previously – I feel that fans would be asking serious questions right now. I hope Liverpool come back revitalised in the Premier next season and are up there challenging because they are a great club.
Down at the bottom, it’s been another disastrous week for Wolves and QPR. What is it with QPR at the moment? They are constantly shooting themselves in the foot. Last Wednesday, they went 2-0 down to Liverpool yet somehow managed to win the game through a great togetherness and some great play that was good to see. But then, lo and behold, they go to Sunderland and get a player sent off. They really are making life difficult for themselves.
Wolves went to Norwich and had a great start, leading 1-0, then straight away Norwich come back to equalise and then go on to win the game. I like Terry Connor but some of the things that he is coming out with are strange, to say the least. He said last week it was great to see teams around them getting back-to-back wins because it shows that it can be done by teams that are struggling.
Forgive me if I’m wrong but that would be the last thing I would want other teams around me to be doing because it would just sink my team more into the mire. They have a massive game next week against an ever-improving Bolton and if they lose that one, in my opinion, that would be curtains for them.
Speaking of Bolton … what a result for them against an in-form Blackburn team and, in winning, they showed all the attributes that you need, when you are down there, to get safe. The emotion around the Reebok Stadium because of recent events was there for all to see and Bolton gave a performance that Fabrice Muamba will have been very proud of.
It was great to see them win and I was so happy for Owen Coyle. He has always struck me as a man of great dignity and the way he has held Bolton together this week amid hundreds of interviews is a credit to himself, his club and his family. He is a proper footballing man who will hopefully get the rewards he and his team deserve, which is to be in the Premier next season.
That’s all for now but I’m sure that, this time next week, there will be more intriguing things to talk about. That’s what makes football so great.