BT Sport’s latest signing reflects on hanging up his boots after more than 21 years as a professional ahead of the launch of brand new Saturday morning show Early Kick-Off.
In a career that spanned more than two decades, Peter Crouch managed a considerable feat in a sport where intolerance is institutionalised: he was universally popular.
And ahead of his debut as a pundit and analyst on BT Sport’s brand new Saturday show Early Kick-Off, the genial persona that won 'Crouchy' so many admirers is unmistakeable.
“I’ve been doing it every day for the past 15 years in the Premier League, so being in the studio and not on the pitch on a Saturday will be something different, but hopefully I can lend a bit of experience and fun to the studio!”
Acutely aware of the pitfalls awaiting recently retired sports people, Crouch decided to transition into the media rather than see out his illustrious career on the periphery.
“I didn’t want to just sit on the bench. I could have done it for another two years but I didn’t want to be another bit-part player,” he says.
“I wanted to be involved. I tried various bits of media stuff. I wrote a book, did a podcast and they just did great, people seemed to enjoy them.
“Everything seemed to grow legs and it was a nice transition. I thought this year I couldn’t really do both, it was one or the other so I decided to retire and pursue these avenues. I’m looking forward to it.”
Crouch will be a staple on Early Kick-Off, a new show hosted by Jake Humphrey, Jules Breach and Robbie Savage every Saturday morning between 10am and midday which will set the agenda for the weekend’s football.
The weekly show will build up to BT Sport’s live and exclusive Premier League offering, which this weekend is Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United hosting the Chilean’s former club and defending champions Manchester City.
The panel will discuss the various transfer dealings of Premier League clubs and Crouch, veteran of 11 clubs, revealed players get caught up in the theatre of deadline day as much as fans.
“As players, you wouldn’t even think it, but we were getting caught up in it as much as everyone else," he says.
“I really did get caught up in it a few times! I moved a few times on transfer deadline day. From Tottenham to Stoke (a £12m move in September 2011) was one of the funniest ones. Someone said they had spotted me on a helicopter [en route to the Potteries], but I was actually in McDonald’s!
“It's great drama, isn’t it? It has just become a thing. It never used to be but it’s funny being a part of it.”
Despite presiding over a nomadic existence during his years as a professional footballer – the forward played for Liverpool, Portsmouth, Tottenham and Stoke among others – Crouch admits that settling in at a new club can be intimidating.
“If you go into a club and there’s a lot of lads who have been there for a long, long time it can be quite daunting, but if it’s a newly assembled squad and there’s a lot of other new faces, it becomes a lot easier,” says the 42-cap former England striker.
“You feel like it’s hard to make friends and you pick who you’re going to sit with. It’s the same as the first day of school, I suppose! Football is a lot more ruthless than the usual line of work.”
A traditional rite of passage for arrivals is the initiation ceremony, which usually entails a new signing serenading a baying squad.
Crouch, who has "seen some shockers", is quick to reveal the most agonising he has ever witnessed.
“We had a new club doctor at Stoke who did Man’s Not Hot (a 2017 viral sensation by British rapper Michael Dapaah AKA Big Shaq)," he says.
"Although it’s horrible and it’s one of the most painful things to watch, it does integrate the lads into the squad quite quickly.”
Some of the most high-profile summer signings, such as Harry Maguire and Nicolas Pepe, may be subject to the ritual at Manchester United, who “have strengthened really well defensively – offensively maybe not so much” and Arsenal, who have been “quite exciting”.
Crouch, though, thinks Manchester City and Liverpool remain the teams to beat.
“I do [think City will retain their title]," he says."Liverpool pushed them so close last year - 97 points or whatever it was and they didn’t win the league. It’s crazy.
“If they get to that again I think that’s an incredible achievement, but I still think City will get to the 100-point mark again.
“They are relentless and very strong. The only way I can see Liverpool pipping it is if Man City get quite far in the Champions League and take their eye off the ball in the league for a bit.”
Crouch’s insightful analysis is infectious. For more from the big man, you can watch his BT Sport debut on Early-Kick off from 10am on Saturday 9 August on BT Sport 1 HD and online.
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