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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
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

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker