Crouch has X-factor, says Worthy

David Cuffley Striker Peter Crouch can give England something completely different in the World Cup finals - according to the man who brought him to Carrow Road nearly seven years ago.

David Cuffley

Striker Peter Crouch can give England something completely different in the World Cup finals - according to the man who brought him to Carrow Road nearly seven years ago.

Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington is hoping to see two of the Nationwide League title-winning squad he managed at Norwich City in action during the finals in South Africa, with the giant front man and goalkeeper Robert Green vying for places in the opening Group C game against the USA on Saturday.

And Worthington believes 29-year-old Crouch, appearing at his second World Cup, could play a vital role for national team boss Fabio Capello.


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Bookmakers have even made the Tottenham striker a 40-1 shot to carry off the tournament's Golden Boot.

“I was looking at Peter's goals per game ratio for England and it's excellent,” said Worthington, with Crouch scoring 21 times in 38 internationals.

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“I am not at all surprised. He's a very, very tall lad with terrific ability with either foot.

“He showed that at Carrow Road and looking at the clubs since he left - Liverpool, Portsmouth, Tottenham - he's been with the England squad all that period and in the top four in the Premier League.

“Now he's part of a team Harry Redknapp has built that will be playing in the Champions League, where he has played before with Liverpool.

“Peter gives England a different option. He has great individual skill and has scored some fine individual goals.”

While Crouch, who played 15 times for City during his loan from Aston Villa in 2003-04, is a good bet to see some action in attack, Green, by his own admission, has a one in three chance of donning the goalkeeper's jersey, taking nothing for granted despite playing in eight of the past 11 England games.

“I honestly don't know who Mr Capello is going to go with. I think there are seven or eight places nailed down in the England team and two or three maybe up for grabs and the goalkeeper is definitely one of those,” said Worthington.

“He could go with the very experienced David James who has seen it all, or at the other end of the scale with Joe Hart, who is a very good young 'keeper, or with Robert Green, who is slap bang in the middle in age and experience.

“It depends how the manager sees it - I don't think there is a great deal between the three of them.

“It's a very interesting one for me to see who he plumps for.”

Green was still a Norwich player when a severe groin injury wrecked his World Cup dream four years ago, and Worthington believes he has earned his second chance of appearing in the finals.

“The injury was a major blow from a psychological point of view,” he said. “Was Robert ready then? We shall never know, but he's very much ready now. He's been part of the existing set-up for a long time and if he is called upon I am sure he will do a very good job for England.

“Playing regularly in the Premier League helps an individual to mature. Robert needed to be tested at that level and we have seen how well he has done over that period of time where he has been almost a permanent member of the side at West Ham.”

Worthington, 48, who played for Northern Ireland in the World Cup finals in Mexico in 1986, is already planning his country's Euro 2012 qualifying campaign after they narrowly missed out on a place in South Africa. The World Cup will provide an early chance to see three of their Euro group opponents because Italy, Serbia and Slovenia are all in the finals.

Meanwhile, he tips England for a place in the last four.

“I'd be the first one to say nothing is certain in football but if England are very focused, looking at each of the games, there is really no reason why they can't win their group. It's down to the individuals - the manager has been through all the scenarios and knows what he expects.

“USA, Algeria and Slovenia will all be disciplined and hard to break down but England have the ability to do that.

“A lot depends on Wayne Rooney staying fit but I've got them down for the semi-finals.

“I really hope England do well because it would be wonderful for football in this country

“As for the final, I don't think you can single out one country, but Argentina, Spain, Brazil and Germany are all strong, all good tournament teams.

“It's definitely the pinnacle of one's career to play for your country in the World Cup finals and it's something that lives with you for ever. It's a wonderful experience playing against and watching some of the best teams in the world.”

Nigel Worthington is to stage a question-and-answer evening for charity next month. The event, in aid of the Jamie Oliver Foundation's Fifteen apprenticeship scheme, is at Links Country Park Hotel, West Runton, on Friday, July 2 (7.30pm). The event is in memory of chef David Ford, from Gunthorpe, who died in a car accident last year at the age of 23. Admission by ticket is �15, which includes free entry to a prize draw. Further information from Helen Ford at h.ford@eastofengland.coop

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