May 14, 2021

Man Utd


Ask Crouchie! Sportsmail’s Peter Crouch responds to YOUR questions… including on fan protests

6 min read

Another remarkable weekend in a season like no other has left Peter Crouch fielding questions on title triumphs, empty stadiums and England call-ups. 

But Old Trafford is the only place to start for Sportsmail‘s resident columnist — though not for footballing reasons…

Have you ever been in a situation where a game was called off so late?

Jim Kelly via email

The only instances I remember, Jim, were based around bad weather and pitch inspections. I’ve never seen anything like that before but I’ve got to say I find it quite hard to understand how the police and authorities didn’t realise something of this nature was going to happen.

Ask yourself this: Were stewards ever going to try to stop those protesting? Of course they weren’t! Stewards are fans of the club and many will feel the same way about the Glazers as those who managed to get inside Old Trafford.

They have aired their grievances and shown that the friction that was sparked by the European Super League plans is not a story that will be swept under the carpet. But will the Glazers be bothered? I seriously doubt it.

One thing that we can never lose sight of is that these people — the Glazers, John Henry, Stan Kroenke — have no affiliation to the clubs they bought. They will never understand the depth of feeling their proposals have caused.

Fans stormed Manchester United's stadium, causing their game vs Liverpool to be postponed

Fans stormed Manchester United’s stadium, causing their game vs Liverpool to be postponed

Will this season go down as one of Pep Guardiola’s greatest?

Steve Botts via Twitter

In a season, Steve, where form has gone out of the window and injuries have caught up with so many teams, the consistency Manchester City have shown is staggering. I have a new level of admiration for Guardiola for the way he has constructed a unit to run away with this title.

It’s incredible, really. Yes, he’s been able to rotate — something his rivals haven’t been able to do — but he has overseen an incredible turnaround. City were almost 20 points behind Liverpool last year so the transformation, without using a recognised striker, has been off the chart.

City’s squad would have been feeling sorry for themselves last summer. The way they went out of the Champions League, losing an FA Cup semi-final and then finishing a distance behind Liverpool could have broken some players but Guardiola revived them spectacularly.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola (left) has revived his side superbly across this season

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola (left) has revived his side superbly across this season

Can you understand why Liverpool and Everton’s home form is so bad?

Latch 9 via Twitter

I can, actually, Latch. I was lucky enough to play at Anfield for three years and have been to Goodison Park countless times. The results you have seen since New Year demonstrate how important fans are to these particular clubs. 

People may laugh at that comment but, believe me, if you are inside Anfield or Goodison and there is a crowd, you are simply not allowed to be substandard. You cannot play to your best every time but each time you go to the touchline, you see how much it matters to those in the stands. 

You cannot let things drift if you know a crowd is going to be on your back. But, in an empty stadium, it’s easy to drift off. It’s like being at a training ground, really, and I have seen some players behaving at the end of matches in a way they wouldn’t if fans were in attendance.

How can players hug each other and stand to chat after games in which they have dropped points? It gives the impression that those negative results don’t hurt them as much as it does those who are watching on TV at home.

It’s not a good look. It’s something they should take on board.

Is Ollie Watkins going to make the England squad?

Jay Griffman via Twitter

I’ve got a lot of friends who are Brentford supporters, Jay. They told me while Watkins was at their club, and I knew when Aston Villa signed him, that a player with great potential was arriving. I’ve been delighted to see he’s got better as the season has progressed.

I’m delighted, too, that Gareth Southgate has the potential to pick 26 players because that opens up the possibility for him to name a couple of wildcards — and Watkins will have done himself no harm at all with his goal and performance at Goodison Park.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that Villa’s team is set up around him but I love his energy and his confidence is improving all the time. I’d like to see him get his rewards. He had a taste in the last round of internationals and I think he would fit into the tournament.

Crouch says Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins (left) has the confidence and energy to star for England

How would you feel lifting a trophy in an empty stadium?

Luke Elliott via email

I’ve thought about this a lot, Luke. It was on my mind last year when Liverpool won their first title after waiting 30 years and it was the same last week when Manchester City lifted the League Cup at Wembley.

I know there were a couple of thousand fans in the stadium but it’s not the same. You talk about lifting trophies but think about this: imagine all the players who have made their England debuts in the last 12 months — or scored their first goals for their country — and not been able to look up and see their families?

When Liverpool won the FA Cup in 2006, an outstanding memory I have of that was seeing my dad at the final whistle and smiling to him. We looked at each other and there was a realisation that getting that trophy was everything we had worked towards for a lifetime.

It always gets mentioned about the money footballers are on but, strip it all away, the one thing we do it for is to have a moment in a full stadium when there is a trophy and noisy celebration to be had. None of what we are seeing feels like football at the moment.

The former Liverpool striker also had his say on lifting a trophy in a stadium with no supporters

The former Liverpool striker also had his say on lifting a trophy in a stadium with no supporters

Do Arsenal have any chance of coming back against Villarreal in the Europa League?

Chris Wezzo via email

I honestly don’t know where I stand with Arsenal, Chris. On one hand, I look and see a club where there is a lot of things wrong. On the other, I see a team who have the ability to get a win when they really need one.

Villarreal had enough chances to kill the first leg but Arsenal being Arsenal, they could end up getting away with it. Yesterday’s win at Newcastle will have given them some confidence and they have strikers who can score at any time. But would I put money on them? Not a chance.

Arsenal could beat Villarreal but Mikel Arteta's side are too inconsistent to be fully trusted

Arsenal could beat Villarreal but Mikel Arteta’s side are too inconsistent to be fully trusted

Would Rafa Benitez be a good fit for Tottenham?

Graham Newton via email

I could not have any more admiration for Rafa than I do, Graham. The man is a football obsessive and when I see pictures of him walking his dogs, I expect them to be in formation! His attention to detail is exemplary and he devotes every second of every day to the game.

I’ll never forget the look on his face when he asked Jermaine Pennant one day at Melwood, Liverpool’s old training ground, if he’d watched a Champions League quarter-final the previous night. Jermaine, bless him, had no interest in watching football and replied: ‘No — who was playing?’

Rafa was absolutely dumbstruck. The moment those two particular worlds collided will stay with me for ever! In terms of Tottenham, it wouldn’t be the worst shout. He’s proven at the highest level, his CV is superb – there are worse candidates, for sure. Until next time, stay safe and well.

Former Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez has a superb CV and he would suit Tottenham well

Former Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez has a superb CV and he would suit Tottenham well

Peter has first-hand experience of Benitez's managerial powers from their time at Liverpool

Peter has first-hand experience of Benitez’s managerial powers from their time at Liverpool

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