Peter Crouch proved again he is the man for the big occasion for Tottenham Hotspur with a hat-trick that sent his team into the group stages of the Champions League with a convincing 4-0 victory over Young Boys of Berne last night.
It was Crouch who had scored the goal back in May to beat Manchester City and put the Champions League within tantalising reach thanks to finishing fourth in the Premier League. Jermain Defoe was also on target as Spurs ensured there would be no late jitters here as the hosts overcame a 3-2 deficit from the first leg in Switzerland to progress 6-3 on aggregate.
Tottenham go into this afternoon's Champions League draw in Monaco in the third group of teams. As they cannot be drawn to play Chelsea, Manchester United or Arsenal, they will face one of the other top seeds, who are are Internazionale, Barcelona, Lyons, Milan and Bayern Munich.
Crouch said: "We want to get Inter Milan or Real Madrid and show the fans at White Hart Lane how good we are. You don't know how good you are until you play against the best and now we've got the chance."
His three goals will serve as a timely prompt to the watching England manager, Fabio Capello, who dropped Crouch from the squad for the friendly with Hungary. Capello announces his squad for the forthcoming European Championship qualifiers against Bulgaria and Switzerland on Sunday.
The hat-trick was also a moment of personal triumph for Crouch, whose relationship with the TV presenter Abbey Clancy has recently been the subject of intense scrutiny. The Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said: "I am sure it has hurt him. You could not meet a nicer guy than Peter Crouch. He is absolutely top-class."
After the game Redknapp revealed that Defoe had asked for his groin operation to be delayed until after the England double-header but his manager wants it done next week, which would rule the striker out of Capello's plans. "He's saying now he might not need it. He went to a specialist who said he did need it," Redknapp said. "But I don't want it to drag out, we have two weeks off and he could only be out for three weeks."
Reaching the group phase is worth a minimum of £6m but Redknapp, who was surprisingly low-key after the game, said he would not be revising his transfer targets in light of Tottenham's achievement.
"I am not too bothered if I sign someone or not," he said. "I have not been pressing the chairman. We have got William Gallas on a free transfer and I am not worried if we don't get anyone else. I'm going off to have a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea."
The Tottenham manager said he hoped he had struck a blow for English managers. "There is a lot of talent despite what people think. We're not all idiots," he said. "People think I don't understand football because I don't have a posh accent. I've worked hard to be where I am and there are others who aren't as lucky who will, hopefully, get the chance."
Heurelho Gomes picked up a groin injury that will keep him out for at least two weeks, which meant Carlo Cudicini played for the first time since his motorbike accident.Reuse content