Hucks happy for old pal

Peter Crouch remains a figure of fun but it's the England fans that dance to his tune now and Darren Huckerby today admitted he believes his former Norwich City team-mate has got the X-factor to help win the World Cup.

Peter Crouch remains a figure of fun but it's the England fans that dance to his tune now and Darren Huckerby today admitted he believes his former Norwich City team-mate has got the X-factor to help win the World Cup.

Crouch having performed a bizarre dance, and scored three goals against Jamaica the other day, is now walking tall among his peers for all the right reasons.

And Huckerby is delighted to see his pal, who he made his debut with for the Canaries while both players were on loan in September 2003 against Burnley, having the success he deserves.

“His performance against Jamaica was impressive and he certainly deserves to start for England in the absence of Wayne Rooney,” said Huckerby, whose partnership with Crouch helped initiate the ultimately successful charge for the Championship title.

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“If Rooney was fit then there would be no question that he would start but Crouch certainly gives England an added dimension.

“He struggled at Villa but after he moved to Norwich and then Southampton he has managed to revive his career, and showed with the Saints what he can do if he gets the right service.”

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And as far as Huckerby is concerned that's the key to getting the best out of Crouch, who has won over a nation since being booed on his international debut last year and looks set to lead the line for England against Paraguay on Saturday.

He said: “There's no question his all-round play is good and he's got a great first touch. He's an intelligent player and if someone is getting on for 7ft before they jump, there's not a lot you can do about it beating them in the air.

“He'll be very good at winning knockdowns for Gerrard and Lampard to cash in on, and it's in the box that he's most effective.

“However, there lies the dilemma as Sven will have to decide whether they are going to risk playing the long ball up to Crouch, but should he not win it they might not see the ball back again for 15 minutes.”

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.

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

“The move to Liverpool sort of came out of the blue,” said Huckerby. “But he's certainly showed what he's made of despite all the flak he's received.

“The one question mark remains about whether he is prolific enough in front of goal. He struggled when he first went to Liverpool, but there's no doubt that he remains a threat.”

Huckerby also wanted to clear up one point of discussion: where did he learn “that” dance move?

“Well, it certainly wasn't me,” said Hucks. “I've seen him dance before and he was rubbish - that's something he's learned since he left Norwich that's for sure.”

City boss Nigel Worthington is also not 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, something Worthington regrets he couldn't have turned into something more permanent.

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

“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.”

“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.”

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