Crouch the centre of attention as McClaren makes switch to 3-5-2

Someone asked Peter Crouch yesterday if the burglars who raided his house on the night last week that he scored two goals against Galatasaray had taken any of his medals. Those were safe, he replied, but they had taken his Aston Martin car.

At the moment, however, it would be impossible to take from Crouch that which means most to him as a footballer, and certainly a lot more than last season's FA Cup winner's medal with Liverpool and a Championship gong from his time with Norwich City. He is the first England striker to score 11 goals in a calendar year and even the return of Wayne Rooney has been cast in the long, angular shadow of the man who will be his strike partner on Saturday.

Rooney's last competitive goal? Against Croatia in Euro 2004 - while Crouch has four goals in Euro 2008 qualifiers since the World Cup finals, plus the two he scored against Greece and, overall, 11 goals in only eight starts for England. They are the statistics of a man who should be assured of his starting place in his national team, never mind his club side, and yet the strange truth about the Liverpool striker is he can be sure of neither.

Crouch was asked yesterday whether he felt it was easier to win a place in the Liverpool or the England side. He answered with diplomacy but it must have given him serious food for thought. Yet with Michael Owen out of the picture for the season, and Andy Johnson injured too, Crouch's place with England is a lot more certain than anything Rafael Benitez and his constantly morphing Liverpool side can ever promise.

"The manager goes into each game a different way," Crouch said. "If he sees Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt as the best way to play against the opposition defence then he plays them, and against Galatasaray he wanted to play me. I don't think it's a case of form. It's a different way of thinking. We've grown up in England with the view that when you've done well and scored, you play next week. The manager at Liverpool likes to rotate and he gets results so you can't complain."

This week, however, it should be different, especially if Steve McClaren decides that the absence of Owen Hargreaves is a good enough reason to experiment with a 3-5-2 formation that would suit Crouch nicely in attack. Crosses from behind the wide positions is the kind of service he relishes and the wrong-headed use of a 4-5-1 system by Sven Goran Eriksson in Germany was enough to tell us that Rooney works better with a partner. Crouch said: "In a couple of games we've changed to 3-5-2 while 4-4-2 has obviously worked. We're all top players, all internationals, and we've all played in those formations at some point in our careers. It should be easy to adapt."

It would also be fair to say there are few international goalscorers capable of quite so much humility about their own record as Crouch, who seems eternally patient. Surely it will have to give at some point. There are only so many times you can score with a scissors-kick in front of the Kop, as he did against Galatasaray, and find yourself on the bench for the next match, as he did against Bolton.

In the great Crouch story that began in earnest last season, and somewhere between his robotic dancing demonstration for Prince William and the hat-trick against Andorra there was a moment that came to sum up some of the frustrations about him. It was that spectacularly miscued scissors-kick against Trinidad & Tobago in Nuremberg that almost struck the corner flag and stood as a symbol for what seemed to be Crouch's limitations. Not any more. His second goal against Galatasaray was more evidence that Crouch is capable of stretching what the rest of us might believe are the boundaries of his creative ability.

"It's a difficult skill to do, I don't want to brag and I can't really because I missed that one against Trinidad quite horribly. But... I have always believed that I could do things like that and been comfortable trying them. When they come off it's great, but when they don't it doesn't look quite so good."

He had to travel to Manchester in a cab to join the squad but news from the Cheshire police yesterday was that his car and most of the items stolen from Crouch had been recovered. It would seem that his luck has changed and there will be no arguments that he is the man to partner an off-colour Rooney. "Everyone I meet in the streets, the fans are all complimentary to me so I seem to be turning a few people around," Crouch said. "Now I'm at a high-profile club like Liverpool people see a lot more of me and see that I can play. I think it's the same at international level, now people have seen over a number of games what I can do."

* Eriksson is being lined up to be the next Benfica coach, reports claimed last night.

Best of times or worst of times? The double life of Peter Crouch

Looking up...

For England: He has scored 11 goals in 14 appearances, six of which have been as a substitute. He has played a total of 924 minutes and scored at a ratio of a goal every 84 minutes.

For Liverpool: In nine appearances (five starts) this season he has scored five goals, including a spectacular scissor kick against Galatasaray. He has played 460 minutes, scoring at a ratio of a goal every 92 minutes.

Looking down...

England: The majority of his goals have come against lesser nations: Jamaica (3), Andorra (2) and Trinidad & Tobago (1). May not start if Wayne Rooney, Andrew Johnson and Michael Owen are all fit.

Liverpool: Has spent 620 minutes of the season so far on the bench or in the stands.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Sport
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Sport
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam