Of all the soccer players even non-obsessives can most likely recognize, Peter Crouch is probably the oddest. He was never a truly great player, and never really all that popular or famous, either. For most of you who know Peter Crouch, it’s because of two of his immutable attributes: 1) that he’s English, and by dint of being English and fitting perfectly with the natural English style of soccer, made a few dozen appearances for their national team; and 2) that he’s tall as hell.
The England national team lugged that towering skeleton to both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups—two tournaments that, if you’re anything like me, were probably your earliest and thus most indelible experiences with world-class soccer. There were the likes of Zidane and Ronaldinho and Beckham and Messi to soak up most of the attention at those Cups, but Crouch also stood out. Literally. Because again, the dude is huge. A 6-foot-7 bundle of toothpicks.
The casual viewer who watched those World Cups probably wouldn’t recall the name after seeing the face, or any specific moment of play (though Crouchie did score in the ‘06 tournament and appeared in the game against the U.S. in ‘10), but it wouldn’t at all be a surprise to hear someone reminisce on those summers and think, And there was that one dude, suuuuper tall, English, I think. What was his name again?
Look up at those World Cups one more time. Peter Crouch made his name in the 2006 edition. Over a decade ago. And he wasn’t some young upstart then, either. Which means that this guy is old as dirt now, and yet he’s still out here in the Premier League, scoring goals for Stoke City, and having a blast while doing it.
Even I, a very close follower of Premier League soccer, was shocked when I first saw Crouch in a game this season. It was probably Stoke’s match against Liverpool in late December, his first start for the club since his only prior one this season in August. Stoke giving up on Wilfried Bony, plus injuries and a lack of any other decent options at striker, has thrust Crouch into a consistent starting role for the first time in a couple years over the last two months. And while he’s still slow and ancient (he just turned 36!) and gawky, he’s actually been playing quite well.
Since that first start two days after Christmas, Crouch has scored four goals and given one assist in his last five league appearances. The most special had to be the one he scored yesterday, the 100th EPL goal of his ridiculously long career, which he celebrated by bringing back the robot, his trademark post-goal dance that was played out when he was doing it a decade ago and is even more awkwardly retro (and endearing) now:
Who knows how long this jolly geriatric giant can keep this up for. Stoke’s addition of the young and promising Saido Berahino in January means Crouch will probably soon be relegated to a reserve role once again, so it probably won’t be long. But who cares, really. Peter Crouch is a cheery old dancing tree-man, and we’re thoroughly enjoying his last moments in the sun.