Lawrence scripts 'Tallest' of stories

The Trinidadian faces a giant task as he prepares to mark Crouch - but he is equal to it

Combating the aerial threat of the 6ft 7in Peter Crouch was always going to prove a tall order for Trinidad & Tobago, but in Dennis Lawrence, who is the same height as England's unlikely cult figure, they may have just the man for the job on Thursday. After all, the Wrexham defender's nickname is "Tallest".

Electrical retailers in the Caribbean islands have reported an unprecedented clamour for plasma-screen television sets. Perhaps it was the prospect of the head-to-head between Lawrence and Crouch - not to mention the Trinidadian's encounter with Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic yesterday - which ensured that the larger sets, ranging from a modest 42in through to a 57in monster costing up to $65,000 (£5,600), sold out first and are now installed in both international airports so that nobody has to miss a kick. How else would such high-rise rivals fit in the picture?

Crouch has spoken of suffering taunts of "lanky" while growing up. "Everyone's life is different, and I enjoyed my childhood," Lawrence said. "I've always been good with people, and they've always been good with me."

Whatever the finals bring for Crouch, he will return to Anfield to prepare for another tilt at the Champions' League. Lawrence will go back to nearby North Wales in readiness for a further 12 months of life in League Two. How did he expect to find the step up from the Racecourse Ground to Nuremberg's Franken Stadium? "You've got to be faster, both in your mind and on your feet," he said. "You've got to make decisions."

For a 30-year-old who has been a full-time professional little over five years, T&T's first-ever appearance in the finals has taken him to places he can be fairly sure he would never his visited with Wrexham, for all the club's proud European pedigree. Last week Lawrence and his colleagues needed a police escort to escape a crowd, largely comprised of screaming girls and more than a few envious boys, after venturing into Rotenburg, the town near their German base.

A guarded character, careful not to be drawn by reporters into comments about Crouch and Co, he provides the journeyman counterweight to the flamboyant style embodied by team-mates such as Dwight Yorke and Russell Latapy. The latter pair fit neatly with the easy-going stereotype that tends to be applied to high-profile West Indians, a perception hardly contradicted by the arrival here of T&T government-sponsored cultural ambassadors such as the calypsonian Black Stalin, the Laventille Rhythm Section and one Len "Boogsie" Sharpe.

Yet whereas Yorke was plucked from Tobago as a teenager after being spotted by Graham Taylor on an Aston Villa tour, and Latapy lists Porto and Rangers on his CV, Lawrence served as a soldier until 2001. He played with the Army club, Defence Force, until the then Wrexham manager, Brian Flynn, gambled £75,000 on the prospect of developing a game-awareness to complement his imposing physique.

Lawrence did not immediately offer convincing evidence that he could ally the two facets. After making his Wrexham debut at centre-forward, he took time to adjust to the intensity of the English League. Rene Simoes, one of the myriad predecessors to the current T&T coach, Leo Beenhakker, discarded him because he felt he was "not talented enough".

Gradually, Lawrence began to settle, in the area as well as in the higher standard of football. Flynn's successor, Denis Smith, who had been renowned as a centre-back who would have thrown himself in front a speeding express train in the cause of Stoke City, hailed his committed approach, saying: "He's a man in the truest sense of the word."

Smith's admiration grew when, with the club's existence threatened by a financial crisis, Lawrence took a pay cut rather than accept more lucrative offers. A transfer would have meant his uprooting his daughter from her school. He calculated that was more important than the extra cash.

His true reward lay ahead. Beenhakker, the veteran Dutchman who revived T&T's moribund World Cup campaign, made Lawrence and Rangers' Marvin Andrews the linchpins of his defence and encouraged him to use his height at set-pieces. In the second leg of a tough, attritional play-off for a place in Germany, away to Bahrain last autumn, "Tallest" put his forehead to a Yorke corner - and the rest is his story.

Not that he was able to join in the immediate celebrations. A Fifa official collared him for the random post-match drug test and it was two hours before a drained Lawrence could muster the required urine sample.

Lawrence would happily endure another such wait during the finals if it followed another footballing tall story come true. "As a kid you always dreamt of things like this," he said. "Now it's here we have to make sure we represent Trinidad & Tobago to the best of our ability."

Coming Soon: Premiership trio to lead the line for Van Basten

TODAY

GROUP C

Serbia & Mont V Holland (2pm)

Serbia's Nemanja Vidic is banned after his sending-off in a qualifier against Bosnia-Herzogovina. Holland's Rafael van der Vaart is back after double ankle surgery. Marco van Basten will play Ruud van Nistelrooy, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben up front.

GROUP D

Mexico V Iran (5pm)

Mexico's keeper Oswald Sanchez flew home following the death of his father but has returned. Iran's key man Mehdi Mahdavikia has recovered from a thigh strain, and striker Ali Karimi is also back after an ankle injury.

Angola V Portugal (8pm)

Portugal's Deco injured his left foot after a clash with team-mate Costinha in training on Friday, but coach Luiz Felipe Scolari may take a chance on the Barcelona player against the former Portuguese colony.

TOMORROW

GROUP F

Australia V Japan (2pm)

Harry Kewell returns after picking up a groin strain in the FA Cup final. Japan's Brazilian-born midfielder Alex Santos may be missing after injuring his leg.

GROUP E

United States V Czech Rep (5pm)

US captain Claudio Reyna is fit after injuring a hamstring but Cory Gibbs has been ruled out of the World Cup with a knee injury. Tomas Rosicky is back for the Czechs after a thigh strain. Talisman Pavel Nedved injured his knee in training and Milan Baros is waiting on a foot injury.

Italy V Ghana (8pm)

Italy will be without Gennaro Gattuso for the first two group games due to a thigh injury, while Gianluca Zambrotta has a similar problem.Alessandro Nesta has been declared fit, and Francesco Totti should also start.

Andrew Tong

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions