Crouch's success no surprise to Nigel

CHRIS LAKEY Peter Crouch's standing among the English footballing public has turned full circle in the space of just a few months - but Nigel Worthington, for one, isn't surprised at how the former Canaries loan player has shot to the top of the popularity charts.

CHRIS LAKEY

Peter Crouch's standing among the English footballing public has turned full circle in the space of just a few months - but Nigel Worthington, for one, isn't surprised at how the former Canaries loan player has shot to the top of the popularity charts.

The 6ft 7in striker spent an all-too-short three months on loan at Norwich in the winter of 2003, forming a relationship with Darren Huckerby that helped launch the ultimately successful charge at the Championship title.

That Crouch has forced his way into England's World Cup squad doesn't surprise City boss Worthington.


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“Not at all,” he said. “I think because he is so tall there is an automatic think mode that he can't be as good a player as the likes of Wayne Rooney, but Peter is an excellent footballer. For his size he has great feet and great ability.

“I, for one, am absolutely delighted for him.”

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Crouch's career at Aston Villa was going nowhere when Worthington made a double loan swoop that was to change Norwich City's season in such dramatic fashion. In came Crouch and Huckerby - and the spark that City needed was in place.

Crouch scored four goals in 14 starts before heading back to Villa - a fortnight before the Canaries went to the top of the Championship table for good - with renewed confidence, cementing his growing reputation with moves to Southampton and then Liverpool.

“You could see the great ability he had, he was technically very good,” said Worthington. “Crouchy was in a situation where he was finding it difficult to get in to the Aston Villa side and he came to us, and we got his confidence back up again.

“He was very popular with the fans and in the dressing room as well - he was a good fellow and a good pro.”

Crouch's hat-trick in England's final warm-up game against Jamaica on Saturday makes him an almost certain starter for the real thing this weekend, when England open their campaign against Paraguay.

“He is going to be on a high so there's no real reason why he shouldn't start,” said Worthington.

Crouch's popularity was epitomised by the reception he received from the Carrow Road crowd in November, 2004, when, as a Southampton player, he received his Norwich City Championship medal.

A dozen goals in 18 starts for the Saints earned Crouch a £7m move to Liverpool and a place in Sven-Goran Eriksson's England squad - although it took the 25-year-old time to get settled into both roles.

But now the England fans who booed him last year during matches against Austria and Poland have taken him to their hearts and the British media has elevated him to cult status.

But what about “that” goal celebration dance?

“I think it adds to what he is,” said Worthington. “It shows his sense of humour and his character and I think that is something that has grown along with him. I think it is great and hopefully for England we'll be seeing a lot more of it over the coming weeks.”

Worthington has only one regret - that Crouch didn't make his Carrow Road move a permanent one.

“He enjoyed his time with us and had we had sufficient funds to sign Darren Huckerby and Peter Crouch we would have done so - it just wasn't possible,” said Worthington.

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