'Lovely bloke' Crouch backed by Redknapp

Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham Hotspur manager, is considering whether to name Peter Crouch among the substitutes in the first game since his early dismissal against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Tuesday.

Crouch is suspended for the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final at White Hart Lane on Wednesday but is not guaranteed a start in today's Premier League clash with Stoke City.

Redknapp revealed that the England striker's red card, for two bookable offences in the first 15 minutes in Spain, left the 30-year-old feeling sick with regret. "I had a chat with him," Redknapp said yesterday. "He's a caring sort of fella, a lovely bloke and he just apologised and said he was sick. But you have to move on from that otherwise you go home and sit in a dark room for six years. It's done.

"You don't go home laying in bed thinking about it. What can you do? The next night you're sick and it will take him a while to get over it but you can't walk around wanting to hang himself. He hasn't murdered someone. What's he done? The kid's made a mistake." Crouch has not started a Premier League game since February, with Redknapp preferring to use Jermain Defoe regularly and rotating Rafael van der Vaart and Roman Pavlyuchenko as his partner.

But Redknapp appreciates the contribution Crouch has made with his goals in Europe, even if he has struggled for goals in domestic football. "He's a good pro, a good lad. People have to realise his goals got us there in the first place," Redknapp said. "And all the other lads love Crouchy. He's a great guy."

Crouch's seven goals in the Champions League, including a hat-trick against Young Boys, helped Spurs through to the last eight, and Redknapp has savoured his experience in Europe's top club competition.

Spurs are five points off fourth-placed Chelsea and Redknapp believes it is possible to sneak into the qualifying places again. He is among the favourites to succeed Fabio Capello as England manager and back-to-back finishes in the top four would bolster his claims. But he said: "I don't go home thinking 'this job is coming up'. I just get on with what I'm doing here.

"It's been a great season in the Champions League, an amazing experience and we want some more of it. We want to keep trying to do that on a regular basis if we can. But we know it's hard. We had one bit of a blip against Real Madrid but I've got nothing to get low about."

Redknapp admitted playing in the Europa League would be a let down after their recent experiences. He added: "It would be a comedown. Nothing compares to the Champions League, it's different class. Absolutely on another level."

Tom Huddlestone and Younes Kaboul are back from injury and in the squad to face Stoke. There is also good news on defender Ledley King as he does not require an operation and could play again this season.

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