Crouch wants FIFA answers over Poll claim
Peter Crouch wants FIFA to come clean over whether he is a target for over-zealous referees at international level. The now-retired Graham Poll recently revealed his fellow officials were instructed to pay close attention to the 6ft 7in England striker at last year's World Cup. Crouch is hoping to fill the void left by Michael Owen for next month's crucial European Championship qualifiers against Estonia and Russia and does not want his chances of making an impact unfairly inhibited. Crouch said on Radio Five Live: 'Certainly, in the Champions League and in international football, I feel like I've been penalised far too much, whereas in the Premier League I haven't been penalised for things. 'I've had to adapt my game in internationals and the Champions League.' He added: 'I feel the way I play is within the rules of the game. 'I'd like to find out from the governing body if I was targeted.' Crouch insists England have the striking 'riches' to be able to cope with Owen's latest injury woe. Newcastle forward Owen has been ruled out of the Estonia and Russia games with a groin injury and possible hernia problem. It is a massive blow for England's hopes of reaching next year's finals, with the 27-year-old in scintillating form for his country in recent matches. Crouch hopes to be given the nod to replace Owen in manager Steve McClaren's starting line-up and insists he and his fellow understudies are up to the challenge. 'We are rich in the striking department,' the Liverpool man said. 'We've got the strength in depth to cope with any injuries we've got. He added: 'I certainly believe we have got players to come in and can certainly do more than a job.' Crouch pointed to the re-emergence of Emile Heskey on the international stage as proof McClaren has a healthy pool of forwards from which to choose. 'I was suspended for the first qualifier (against Israel in September) and Emile Heskey came in pretty much from nowhere and did a fantastic job,' Crouch said. 'Before that, Emile Heskey wasn't in the squad and that shows the strength we have got.' The resurrection of the Owen-Heskey partnership against Israel and Russia was considered a huge success. But Wigan forward Heskey broke a metatarsal in his first club game after the Russia victory to scupper any hopes of the pairing being retained next month. And with Owen also now unavailable, McClaren will need to conjure up an alternative winning formula. Crouch is confident that whatever strikeforce the England boss chooses, it will be a success. He said: 'Myself and Michael Owen played away in Estonia, scored and won 3-0 as well. That worked. 'If Owen's out, we've got Andrew Johnson, Wayne Rooney's fit now. We've got Jermain Defoe.' Crouch was the victim of Heskey's international renaissance, and while he admits he would much rather be playing, he insists the team comes first. 'I'll be honest, you want to be playing,' he said. 'All footballers are probably selfish. They want to be playing games, they want to be playing for their country. 'We are fans at the end of the day. Us qualifying for the European Championships is the most important thing. 'Not being at the championships doesn't bear thinking about. 'Whoever best to play in that role to get us there, so be it.'