My clubbing nights are behind me, vows Crouch

England striker promises to focus on World Cup rather than dancefloors in future
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The Independent Online

Peter Crouch was an easy target for the opportunist photographer who happened to be dancing in a club alongside England's 6ft 7in striker as he let his hair down after Tottenham's win over Portsmouth on 17 October. One sanctimonious Daily Mail back-page later and Crouch was obliged to promise yesterday that he would not be caught out on any more late nights out.

In these austere times it was not enough that Crouch's night out was eight days before his next game and that he was not breaking any Spurs rules apart from Harry Redknapp's vague edict about his players not getting caught out by paparazzi. Crouch's greatest crime was not the night out, it was that he was caught and, now on England duty, yesterday he explained the background to those infamous boozy pictures of him dancing in the London club.

Crouch said: "Harry told me: 'You're an idiot, let's move on.' Quite straightforward. That's all we need to say about it. I don't know what Fabio [Capello] would think. It was eight days before the next game. I've not covered myself in glory, but I haven't killed anyone. Although sometimes I feel like I have. I'm human at the end of the day. It won't happen again. Harry was all right with it. We were going out with all the [Spurs] lads, as a team. It probably escalated a bit more than I would have planned. In a World Cup year, though, we want to be as focused as we possibly can.

"We're human. After a game you want to relax and unwind. If you don't have a game until the following weekend, you can go out and relax. It can't be football, football, football. Nothing like that would happen if there was a midweek game. Being a World Cup year, we want to concentrate on football matters."

As the man who was also photographed on that night with his head poking through the sunroof of a taxi, it is perhaps surprising that Crouch has taken so long to properly catch Capello's eye. Yet after some initial scepticism from the England manager, Crouch looks like he has established himself firmly in the Italian's plans and he flies to Qatar today as the favourite to start alongside Wayne Rooney against Brazil on Saturday.

Of all English strikers, it is difficult to think of a single occasion when the big man with 18 goals in 35 caps has dived to win an advantage. With David Ngog's dive over Lee Carsley's tackle on Monday night still fresh in the memory, Crouch said that the nation might look upon an incident like that differently if it were to happen to England at the World Cup.

Crouch said: "It happens so quick, doesn't it? It's difficult. If the tackle comes in and he [Ngog] stays on his feet, he doesn't get anything and the team lose – it's a difficult balance. I'm not saying you should cheat. But it's the difference between winning or losing a game.

"In a World Cup, if someone took a dive and we went through, would the nation be slaughtering him? No one wants to see that [diving]. No one wants to see players cheat to win games, but who's saying he cheated? He might have been trying to jump over the tackle. Only he knows that."

Has Capello repeated his insistence before the Croatia game that he did not want his players to dive? "He hasn't said it to us," Crouch said. "I saw [Capello's remarks] on the television that he wouldn't be happy if players dived. I've taken that on board."

If he has proved one thing in his prolific England career – 16 goals in 17 starts – it is that Crouch is a more effective striker when he starts the game. Yet he will only start on Saturday because Emile Heskey – seven goals in 57 caps – is injured.

"I'm obviously very proud of the goals I've scored for England and my record," Crouch said. "I don't think: 'What more can I do?' I just want to continue. I always feel confident I will get chances and I'll take them."

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