Stoke 2-1 Wolves: Daily Mirror match report
Published 21:30 08/04/12 By John Percy
Peter Crouch was still in short trousers the last time a Stoke player was spotted in the Potteries and chosen to represent England.
But 28 years after Mark Chamberlain appeared as a substitute against Finland, Crouch is on course to end his own painful exile by booking a place on the plane for Euro 2012.
Crouch was planning his summer holidays with glamorous wife Abbey Clancy earlier this year after admitting defeat on his England dream while nemesis Fabio Capello was still in charge.
But the shock resignation of the Italian has given Crouch the kiss of life and revitalised his career to such an extent that he is impossible to ignore.
Even ultra-cautious boss Tony Pulis is finding it increasingly difficult to stop blowing the bugle for his £10m signing, who is producing nudges in the ribs at precisely the right time.
While his winner against Wolves didn’t match the heights of his stupendous effort against Manchester City a fortnight before, it was the type of goal manufactured in Britain that strikes fear into the hearts of even the most experienced of European defenders.
Whether it is Harry Redknapp, Roy Hodgson, Stuart Pearce or whoever takes the reins when the FA dignitaries finally reach a decision that has so far eluded them, Crouch is now jumping to the front of the queue.
Pulis said: “I tried to dampen it down hoping that other people would come and have a look themselves and see what he’s doing instead of a manager blowing bubbles.
“But he’s done that now and the cat is out of the bag - Crouchy is playing as well as he’s ever played so I can’t play it down any further.
“I’d love him to have the summer off but if he gets selected there will be nobody more delighted than me.
“He’s absolutely desperate to play for England, he’d walk over there. We’re talking about a country who I don’t care who they pick or not, because I’m Welsh! But he’s good enough to do it, if he wasn’t I wouldn’t say anything.
“Whoever gets the job, whether its Harry or whoever, looking at the strikers Peter is an option. [Wayne] Rooney is going to miss the first two games and nobody can tell me Peter can’t do this or that.”
Crouch’s winner was his 13th goal of the season and enhanced Stoke’s hopes of securing their first ever top ten finish in the Premier League. It is inevitable that their opponents on Saturday will not be playing them next season.
This was a sixth successive defeat for poor Terry Connor, who is saying all the right things but must know deep down that he is deep in quicksand and unable to save himself. Wolves remain six points adrift of safety and it doesn’t promise to get any easier, with the visit of Arsenal on Wednesday.
They did take the lead here, in fluky circumstances, when Asmir Begovic inexplicably allowed Michael Kightly’s cross to sneak in at the far post without a touch from its intended target Dave Edwards.
But the defensive calamities that have afflicted them all season were painfully evident again when Robert Huth was allowed to crash home an equaliser.
And Crouch then gobbled up the sort of chance he has been putting away for years just after the hour to hammer another nail into Wolves’ relegation coffin.
The outstanding Dean Whitehead has joined the bandwagon for Crouch - who has not played since November 2010 for the Three Lions - by insisting it would be “stupid” for him to be overlooked.
He said: “I don’t see too many better than him at the moment. People have got their opinions but I am sure he will be on the plane.
“His goals record for England speaks for itself, so he can do it at club level and international level. How do you defend against that goal he scored against Stoke?
“It’s not just his goals, it is his all-round play and work rate for the team which all the lads appreciate. It would be stupid not to take him.”
Stoke (4-4-2): Begovic 5; Shotton 6, Huth 7, Shawcross 7, Wilson 6; Pennant 7 (Palacios 86), Whelan 7, Whitehead 8, Etherington 6 (Jerome 69 6); Walters 7, Crouch 8 (Delap 90). Subs (not used): Sorensen, Jones, Fuller, Upson. Booked: Etherington
Wolves (4-4-2): Hennessey 6; Zubar 5, Stearman 5, Bassong 6, Ward 6; Kightly 7, Henry 6 (Davis 86), Edwards 5, Jarvis 6; Ebanks-Blake 5 (Doyle 83), Fletcher 6. Subs (not used): De Vries, Johnson, Berra, Milijas, Davis, Forde. Booked: Kightly
Referee: Mark Halsey
HERO: Dean Whitehead. Unsung hero in the Potters engine room VILLAIN: Asmir Begovic. Will be embarrassed at the Wolves goal.