x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Crouch and Spurs, a perfect match

The England forward looks certain to spearhead a three-pronged attack with fellow returning prodigal sons Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe.

Having signed for Tottenham as an awkward-looking, bony-armed beanpole in July 1998, Peter Crouch never managed to turn up on the radar of then manager George Graham and was sold to QPR two years later for a mere £60,000 (Dh363,279) having never played a game. Nine years later, almost to the day, he was driving back to the English capital from Portsmouth with a £9million price tag on his head, 34 England caps and a chance to prove the club were wrong to break his heart all those years ago.

On Tuesday, the England striker completed the full cycle in a nomadic career that has seen him experience the lows of relegation with Southampton in 2005 to the highs of a Champions League final appearance for Liverpool in 2007 by rejoining the club who ruthlessly axed him as a teenager. It sees Crouch reunite with the north London side and manager Harry Redknapp, under whom he played with at Southampton and, more recently, Portsmouth, for a third time.

Crouch looks certain to spearhead a three-pronged attack with fellow returning prodigal sons Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe - although unlike Crouch's return, Spurs collected a significant profit upon welcoming back the diminutive duo in January. And when you sit down and examine them closely, Crouch and Spurs are a partnership made for each other. Crouch, like Spurs, is ridiculed and revered in equal measure.

His ungainly physique and giant frame, often belie the tools of a man with an astute touch, a cerebral awareness to bring others into the game and a fondness for hearing the ball pound the back of the net. Spurs, the butt of jokes for every club outside the top four of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United for spurious claims before the start of every season that they will challenge that monopoly, finished last season with their reputation restored thanks to the leadership of manager Redknapp.

Just two points from the first eight league games before Redknapp took the reins, the club finished a credible eighth in the Premier League with the board promising the manager a sizeable war chest to establish the club among the best in England's top flight. And it seems Redknapp sees the best way to do that is to welcome back some old boys to give them a second shot at restoring pride to the cockerel perched on top of White Hart Lane.

Redknapp has always favoured a "little and large" combination up top, a marriage that has served him well at former clubs West Ham (John Hartson and Paul Kitson), Southampton (James Beattie and Kevin Phillips) and Portsmouth (Crouch and Defoe). But Keane, who was made captain last term due to Ledley King's uncertainty of a starting position because of a chronic knee complaint, is unlikely to play second fiddle to Defoe - the scorer of the only goal against West Ham in the Barclays Asia Trophy in Beijing yesterday - while the latter is also likely to see his name in the starting XI significantly more than his first spell at the club, with both occupying roles in support of their new gargantuan frontman.

The club's Latin motto is Audere est Facere (To Dare Is to Do). Crouch's signing promises at least to give Spurs fans hope for the new campaign that they have a side steeped in the club's traditional values of entertaining, attacking football. But don't expect too many to pipe up about this year being "the year" Spurs break the top four's stranglehold, they've walked into that minefield too many times before.

sluckings@thentional.ae