Crouch: Transfer rumours hold no fear
When your club is tabling record-breaking deadline day bids for players who occupy your position, it must be a little disheartening. Following Harry Redknapp's admission that he offered £35 million for Villarreal striker Giuseppe Rossi last Monday and widespread reports of bids for Sergio Aguero, Diego Forlan and Andy Carroll, it would have been understandable had a wave of anxiety swept over Tottenham's strikers.
While Redknapp has regularly proven adept at sniffing out deals over the years, he has added a ruthless streak to that famous transfer pedigree since arriving at Spurs. He is no longer in a position where he must accept large bids for players in order to balance the books - as was the case at West Ham and Portsmouth - and performance is now the key criterion for any decisions on departures.
While Roman Pavlyuchenko provides a rare example of a player who worked his way back into Redknapp's thinking - though he again stated his desire to leave at the weekend - exiled pair Robbie Keane and David Bentley illustrate that when the Spurs boss has made up his mind on a player, first-team opportunities will be limited and an enforced exit will follow.
Thus, Redknapp's insistence at publicly seeking out additional striking options in January should have raised eyebrows among Pavlyuchenko, Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch. The English pair, in particular, have endured misfiring campaigns; but while Defoe can point to a long injury lay-off, the towering former Liverpool striker appears to have more questions to answer. Linked with moves to Stoke and Sunderland, among others, last summer, Crouch was again tipped to leave White Hart Lane in January but still finds himself a Spurs player.
Crouch has scored just two Premier League goals since his dramatic winner at Eastlands last May sent Tottenham into the Champions League at Manchester City's expense, with his latest strike coming in last Wednesday's victory over Blackburn. The end of this campaign will confirm another failed attempt to beat his current season-best haul of 19 goals - achieved while playing in the Championship with Portsmouth nine years ago - and Crouch's future will likely be the subject of speculation again.
However, the England international, who has netted 22 goals in 42 games for the Three Lions, was recently given a huge vote of confidence by Redknapp - "I'm especially not looking to sell Crouch. He gives us a different option and I'm a big fan of his" - and Crouch insists that despite all the speculation surrounding Spurs' players, he is determined to get back among the goals for his club.
"I think transfer rumours are part and parcel about being at a top club, you are going to have competition for places and you are going to get speculation," Crouch tells ESPNsoccernet. "Robbie Keane went out and I think the manager has always said that he wanted four strikers to choose from so it made sense that he was chasing another striker. But I know that I will have a part to play and the manager rates me so when I'm given opportunities I just want to take them. You have got to have belief in your own ability.
"There is plenty of excitement among the players during the transfer window, most of the lads have got their bags packed and are ready to go, just in case! We were all glued to the TV and radio looking out to see who goes where on deadline day. There was a lot going on last Monday, it was an exciting time, but I think the managers are happy when it shuts as they don't have to answer any more difficult questions.
"I think when you have clubs interested in you it must be a sign that you are doing well, you should take it as a compliment that you are wanted. But I'm extremely happy where I am. I know the manager's said I'm not for sale which gives me confidence that he wants to keep me at the club. Hopefully I can continue to do well at Tottenham."
Although his stats this season make for less-than-prolific reading, Crouch has had a major impact at Spurs. Firstly, his league record belies an incredible continental strike-rate: the 6ft 7in forward has flourished in the Champions League - netting six goals in seven games as Spurs advanced to the knockout stages. Secondly, his partnership with Dutch maestro Rafael van der Vaart has proved particularly fruitful, with Crouch claiming direct assists for five of the former Real Madrid man's ten league goals this season.
Redknapp took the opportunity to encourage Tottenham's misfiring strikers to match the scoring exploits of the Dutchman last week - "Van der Vaart is the only man who has got his ratio of goals. We need the strikers to start scoring regularly as well" - and Crouch agrees that he needs to contribute more goals, though he is equally happy to heap praise on his team-mate.
"He's been fantastic, he is a top quality player," Crouch gushes about Van der Vaart. "He's proved to be a great signing and I've enjoyed playing with him - we've linked up well and I've managed to be involved in a lot of the goals he's scored. He makes my job a lot easier because when I've been knocking it down he's managed to get into space, he's brought an awful lot to the side.
"He doesn't take the mickey about scoring more goals than me but it's about time he started passing it more to me instead of finishing them, though! He's a very intelligent player, he knows where to run and he can certainly finish. He's very talented. I know I've got more goals in Europe but I've been involved in quite a few goals in the league and I've had an impact in games. Of course I'd like to be scoring more but as long as I'm creating and being involved I am pleased with that."
Crouch will get the opportunity to add to his prolific Champions League record, which reads 18 goals in his past 30 games for Tottenham and Liverpool, when Spurs take on Milan next Tuesday. And while he is at odds to explain why he has such a good scoring record in Europe, he admits he is relishing the prospect of playing against the Rossoneri.
"I always believed without a doubt that I would play in the Champions League again [after leaving Liverpool]. At Liverpool, I had a great time playing in the competition and I went to Portsmouth with the belief that we would be able to make it into the Champions League. We had some talented players there, with [Lassana] Diarra, Defoe, [Sylvain] Distin and it's a shame things went the way they did. But I always felt if not with Portsmouth I could get to a club like Tottenham.
"It's the pinnacle: the best competition in the world, playing against the best players. It's a mouth-watering tie against Milan and going back to the San Siro will be a great occasion - they are the league leaders in Italy so they're clearly a fantastic side. But we are not overawed by anyone. We beat Inter Milan and we've got nothing to be afraid of. If we play to the best of our ability we will get through.
"I've always found that I've loved playing in the Champions League. I can't put my finger on why I've done well but it has seemed to bring the best out of me and long may it continue. They've got a great deal of talent, obviously, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is someone I really admire - he's a top class striker. But we will just be worrying about ourselves."
Like Crouch, Ibrahimovic is frequently the recipient of one of football's well-used clichés, being described as having "a good touch for a big man", but the Spurs frontman laughed off suggestions that it is a frustrating tag to be labelled with.
"I don't find it annoying at all, I take it as a compliment to be honest," Crouch chuckles. "At least people think I have a good touch, it's better than being told I've got a bad touch for a big man isn't it?"
Peter Crouch supports the FA MARS Just Play programme which aims to get 150,000 new participants playing the game for at least 30 minutes a week by September 2013.