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‘We did the robot all the time’: Mason Mount and Peter Crouch on World Cups past and present

Crouch played at the World Cup in 2006 and 2010 while Mount, as part of Gareth Southgate’s current squad, is preparing for his very first

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Wednesday 16 November 2022 21:20 GMT
Peter Crouch played at the World Cup in 2006 and 2010 while Mason Mount is preparing for his first
Peter Crouch played at the World Cup in 2006 and 2010 while Mason Mount is preparing for his first (Ebay)

Peter Crouch and Mason Mount are giddily talking about the World Cups that first got them into football when, with the way memory works, thoughts turn to a moment that was a bit more tense.

Crouch starts discussing the 82nd minute of his second appearance in the tournament, which was at that point a frustrating 0-0 draw against Trinidad and Tobago. He’d obviously been in poor performances against weaker teams before but the concentration of a World Cup made it something else altogether.

“You can feel it in the stadium,” Crouch says. “There’s obviously a tremendous pressure on you.”

Mount was a mere seven years old at the time, and can only really remember the colours of the competition in the way kids do, but empathises with the intensity of the situation as a fellow professional; “the blur”.

England began the bombardment. David Beckham began playing crosses in and, eventually, the 6ft 7in Crouch rose to meet one. It set up a very hard-fought 2-0 win.

“It was a relief more than anything,” Crouch says. “Some of the hugs I felt from my teammates, it felt like there was a weight lifted.”

That speaks to more than just the moment, and the panic England were starting to go through. It raises a question that speaks to the difference between historic teams, the evolution in the national team, and why certain sides might be remembered very differently.

Mount is asked whether his England would ever go long in the way that 2006 side did. Would they, to be blunt, seek to hit the big man.

The answer is no. Iran beware.

“It’s always stick to playing,” Mount explains. “That’s our strength. That’s what we’ve been brought through as kids to do, to play football and keep it on the ground, use our technical ability. You can see with the squad we’ve got, why would we want to go long? That’s not our strength. Even if the game’s not going our way, we’re still trying to play and create opportunities that way.”

There's also a sense they just wouldn't feel the panic in the same way.

Crouch echoes some of the sentiments.

“We could play but there’s no point ignoring that. If you’ve got someone like David Beckham on the right-hand side and me up front, it’s an obvious thing to do. One of the best crossers of the ball we’ve ever seen and I’m not bad in the air. There’s a bit of a stigma these days but I look at our team now, and we’ve got so many good footballers who can receive the ball in any moment, with a man on them – Mason being one of those. It was something that we wanted to have in our era.

“I’m excited about what can happen and, if it happens, it will be remembered forever.”

The two are actually sitting down to specifically discuss World Cup memories, since they have joined up to work on eBay’s charity raffle of football memorabilia. It was pretty natural as they talk all the time, as mates, and as part of a mentor-mentee relationship, since Mount grew up a Portsmouth fan.

Crouch earned 42 caps for England between 2005-10
Crouch earned 42 caps for England between 2005-10 (Getty Images)

“Crouchy was my hero,” Mount says.

“He watched me at Fratton Park, banging in goals,” Crouch laughs. “I’ve inspired him to be the player he is today.”

“I just need to work on my heading!”

Amid all of the controversy around Qatar 2022, the two want to show football’s power to do good, especially given how much that interest rockets in the build-up to a World Cup. They have both put up shirts and personal memorabilia for auction, including club items, and England shirts. The charities they have picked are Together for Short Lives and Rays of Sunshine, both of which support seriously ill children across the UK.

It ties in with an assertiveness around Qatar’s issues. You don’t get the sense Mount and England will be adhering to Fifa’s letter to stick to football.

“It’s about using our voice and not just us but other nations. It’s obviously a wider discussion with the armbands we’ve chosen to use, to bring awareness.”

The two admit that, as professionals, it’s difficult not to let the very idea of playing in a World Cup take over.

“It’s none of the England team’s fault,” Crouch adds. “That’s been decided for them. It’s out of their hands. It’s a World Cup.”

“You dream of this moment as a little kid,” Mount says.

As to when they were little kids, there’s one element of memorabilia that remains in the memory.

“Panini stickers,” both say, almost in unison. “I was all over a Panini sticker book,” Mount says.

“The same, the Panini stickers were the ones,” Crouch adds. “When I go back on eBay now, you can go back to the time when I was in school, everyone's got something on there you can relate to. For me, it’s the 1990 World Cup. I’m not sure Mason was even born! Paul Gascoigne, [Roberto] Baggio, Lothar Matthaus. That was the one that got me into it.”

Crouch was nine then, which means 1990 was for him what 2006 – and the golden generation’s last World Cup – was for Mount.

“I grew up watching them, absolute legends and idols – those special moments that you watch and remember,” the Chelsea midfielder says. “It motivates you, hoping one day if I’m lucky enough to do the same.”

If the individual players are remembered with such fondness, it isn’t necessarily the case with the 2002-06 side, who are often unfavourably compared to the 2018-22 team. Crouch can’t help noticing all of that around the team – but also a difference within.

“I look at the England squad now, and Mason might tell me different, but it looks harmonious. It looks like you all get on as you would at club level. Whereas, in our era, it wasn’t quite like that. The rivalries were so intense, the top teams especially, and a lot of the time there felt like a thing with the press – us versus them – it felt like people almost wanted us to fail.

“It doesn’t feel like that now, It feels like Gareth’s got everyone on board and is pulling in the right direction. Perhaps in our day, we were very, very aloof as players, and the press because of that felt it was like us and them in a weird way; whereas I don’t see that now at all, and I think that’s down to the squad of players and Gareth.”

Mount will be a key player for England in Qatar
Mount will be a key player for England in Qatar (The FA via Getty Images)

The two naturally get into talking about the very experiences of a tournament. Crouch played in two World Cups, in 2006 and 2010, whereas this is Mount’s first. It’s odd in the sense of what a tournament is supposed to be because, although he played in Euro 2020, that was in a strange Covid-conditioned competition across a few countries.

“Mason doesn’t need any advice off me, he’s played in big games, big tournaments before, but the thing I’ve taken from it, now retired, is to enjoy every moment,” Crouch says. “It goes so quickly. I think sometimes because of the pressure, because we haven’t won it for so long, you forget to enjoy every moment, and you should. It’s the pinnacle, the absolute pinnacle of what you do for our profession.”

Mount can see what Crouch is saying from Euro 2020. There’s an interesting insight into the intensity of a tournament.

“If I look back now, everything is just a blur, how quick it went, every game. Like, most of the time, if I think about last week when I played for Chelsea, I remember most of the game and what I did, but if I look back to the Euros, I can’t remember too much about what I did in the game. On the pitch with the fans, I remember that, that’s what really sticks out.”

There is something else that sticks out, that everyone can remember, that hasn’t yet been said.

Mount starts acting it out, having rehearsed it so many times as a seven-year-old.

“Oh yeah, obviously I remember the robot,” he laughs, while performing Crouch’s famous dance. “We used to do it all the time.”

“Not bad at all,” Crouch says. “Him and Dec [Rice] were practicing. I want to see some robots in the final!”

The wonder, if it did get to a point of such jubilation, is whether they’d remember.

Mason Mount and Peter Crouch have teamed up with eBay, and are giving away some of their cherished mementoes as part of a charity football memorabilia raffle. Items up for grabs include the boots Mason Mount wore in the run-up to the Euro 2020 tournament and the shirt worn by Peter Crouch when he made his second ever appearance for England. The proceeds will be donated to their respective chosen charities, Together for Short Lives and Rays of Sunshine, both of which support seriously ill children across the UK. It can be visited by clicking here.

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