As a veteran of eight different clubs, and nine transfer and loan deals over an 11-year career, Peter Crouch should never find the transfer window surprising, but, even by his standards, deadline day on 31 August was, he says, "chaos".
He went in to training at Tottenham Hotspur expecting to return the next day as a Spurs player and was pitched into talks in which the club told him he was no longer wanted. Then there were contract negotiations and a drive up the M6 to sign for Stoke for a club-record £10m before the 11pm deadline. That was the complicated part. The easy bit, he says, was deciding to join the quiet football revolution in the Potteries.
It is not hard to see why Crouch was impressed by Stoke's training ground, Clayton Wood, where we met this week, which opened last year and is one of the most modern in the Premier League. But it was the man in the manager's office, Tony Pulis, who clinched the deal. Crouch has played for 12 different club managers in his career but few have connected with him like Pulis.
Viewed from afar, there are parallels between the two men. Both are regarded as unorthodox in their approach and, as a result, both get more than their fair share of sniping. Neither will ever be regarded as "fashionable" figures in the modern game and neither of them could care less what anyone else thinks. Both have developed a habit of proving the doubters wrong.
And most importantly, Crouch, after his curt farewell from Spurs, needed a club that would appreciate him. "He [Pulis] certainly gives me that belief," Crouch says. "The best football I have ever played in my career has always been with a manager who rates me extremely highly."
He bought into Pulis' methods straight away. "He has really, really impressed me with his attention to detail and the work he does on every player and team's stats," Crouch says. "He is not concerned what anyone else says about the way we play. All he is concerned about is getting results, a stable Premier League team doing well in the cup competitions. He has achieved that."
When they first met, it was Pulis' enthusiasm that told Crouch he was in the right place despite a similar offer from Sunderland. With Stoke also in the Europa League (they play Maccabi Tel Aviv at the Britannia tonight) there is a mood about the club that Crouch loves. As i's photographer takes pictures, Crouch expresses concern at the time being taken. He is not in a rush, rather, as he points out, "the lads will be through here any minute".
Thirty seconds later his worst fears are realised as Jonathan Woodgate and Jermaine Pennant come round the corner and roar with laughter at Crouch and the photographer on top of a stepladder. Crouch grins and knows he has to take the stick. This is a club where there are no big-time Charlies.
It was still tough to leave Spurs but football can be a brutal business and, after two years and some crucial goals for the club, Crouch was told he was not wanted. "It was difficult really, I felt I had to leave in the end," Crouch says. "I could have sat there, I had another two years left on my contract. From their point of view they wanted to get Scott Parker in, they needed finances for that. At the end of the day that is nothing to do with me...
"There's always something thrown at me but I am still here. People will write me off and I come back and get a few goals for England. That is something I have had my entire career. I am 30 now. It is not going to change. I will always have to 'prove myself' and have another chance to do that at Stoke."Reuse content