Pulis backs Crouch for a return to England fold


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The Independent Football

You have to go back to 1984 for the last time a Stoke City player appeared for England. That was Mark Chamberlain, father of Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but Tony Pulis believes the club are finally due international recognition again in the shape of Peter Crouch.

A fortnight after his remarkable volleyed goal against Manchester City, Crouch's classic headed winner in Saturday's victory over bottom club Wolves was another reminder of the Euro 2012 claims of a striker, frozen out by Fabio Capello, who has not played for England since scoring as a substitute in the 2-1 friendly defeat by France in November 2010.

Crouch's 22 goals in 42 internationals is an impressive rate that could enhance his appeal to Harry Redknapp, his old manager at Portsmouth and Tottenham, should he finally fill the vacuum created by Capello's departure.

Pulis, who paid a club record £10m fee for the 31-year-old, said: "Whoever gets the job, whether it's Harry or whoever, looking at the strikers Peter is an option. [Wayne] Rooney is going to miss the first two games and nobody can tell me Peter can't do this or that. He is playing as well as ever. I'd love him to have the summer off, but if he gets selected there will be nobody more delighted than me. He's absolutely desperate to play for England, he is desperate. He'd walk over there."

Pulis insists there is nothing "one-dimensional" about the big forward's game, a view reinforced by Crouch's team-mate Dean Whitehead. "It would be stupid not to take him [to Euro 2012]," said the midfielder. "Everyone says he's 6ft 7in so he heads the ball, but I tell you what, his touch and technique on the ball are different class."

Crouch's strike lifted Stoke to 11th, raising hopes, ahead of today's trip to Aston Villa, of their first top-10 finish in the elite division since 1975. It also inflicted a sixth successive defeat on seemingly doomed Wolves. Their manager, Terry Connor, argued with some justification that Stephen Ward was harshly penalised for the free-kick leading to Crouch's goal, but his team lost a lead for the third game running, after Michael Kightly had put them ahead.

Connor, whose charges face Arsenal at Molineux on Wednesday, has taken just one point from 21 since replacing Mick McCarthy but vowed to battle on. "My job is to look after the football club until 13 May, which I am very happy and very proud to do," he said.

Aston Villa v Stoke

Aston Villa: Given, Hutton, Collins, Baker, Warnock, Albrighton, Gardner, Bannan, N'Zogbia, Agbonlahor, Weimann

Stoke: Begovic, Wilson, Huth, Shawcross, Wilkinson, Shotton, Palacios, Delap, Etherington, Walters, Crouch

Odds: Home 5-4; Draw 9-4; Away 9-4.

Kick-off Today, 5.30pm (Highlights BBC1 10.20pm)

Team news Villa forward Andreas Weimann is in contention for a recall. The Austrian came off the bench against Liverpool having not trained all week because of an ankle injury. Stoke are stet to freshen up their side with defender Andy Wilkinson, who has been nursing a groin complaint, in contention for a return.