Peter Crouch doesn’t suffer from universal acclaim. In his 17 appearances for England, six of them as substitute, he has scored 11 times. This strike rate of 0.65 goals per game, better than that of Rooney, Owen, Shearer and Lineker, should make Crouch a national hero. He isn’t.
Perhaps this is about aesthetics: in his book Brilliant Orange, David Winner tells how Johan Cruyff thought Gary Lineker hopelessly limited because all he did was score. This seems to be a peculiarly Dutch perspective, but maybe the English, while not renowned for valuing the finer aspects of football, feel the same way about Crouch.
Perhaps, though, this is more about frustration, because, although an international striker with an impressive scoring record, the 6ft 7ins Crouch promises to be so much more.
He could be colossal, a behemoth, gargantuan and immense. Defenders would hit him and crumple, folding in on themselves like the canvas of a dismantled tent. Or they would bounce: big slabs of meat, sailing dumbly through the cold, clear air - like cattle fired from a giant catapult - to land in the stand, where they would remain, awestruck, marvelling at Crouch’s vitality.
But he isn’t and they don’t. Put simply, and to borrow a phrase from Somerset Maugham, Crouch is too tall for his strength. Recognising the need to broaden, he has increased his body weight by 15% over recent years, but the perception of frailty remains. Ultimately, I suppose, we must respect the limits of nature. Maybe expecting Crouch to transform into a man-mountain is no more realistic than expecting Maradona to sprout a few inches in height, Zidane to be just that little bit quicker or Carlton Palmer to be technically adept.
What can reasonably be expected, however, regardless of bulk, is for Crouch to make the most of his height. To leap. Like a lone dolphin breaking the ocean surface to soar over the waves with ease and grace, Crouch should rise above the sea of bobbing heads, unencumbered and alone, hanging, momentarily motionless, before delivering the ball a ferocious blow, sending it fizzing and whirring, blurred, into the net, to nestle, briefly forgotten, while the world around it erupts.
Or failing that, he could at least stand up straight.
Being so tall can’t be easy. You are exposed, obviously different, a target. It takes a certain personality to pull it off, and Crouch seems to lack the confidence to fill the role. It is fanciful to suggest that anyone can flourish in professional football without a certain amount of self-possession and fortitude, yet rather than draw himself up to his full height, announce himself physically and terrorise the opposition, Crouch appears angular, awkward, self-conscious, like a rapidly growing teenager.
So yes, one day, Peter Crouch may get the recognition he deserves. But that day will come only once he fully appreciates that his first name and surname are not separated by a comma.