Premier League

PETER CROUCH: Excitement, nerves and everything to prove at Burnley

 

Peter Crouch is a columnist for Sportsmail

 

 

Peter Crouch is a columnist for Sportsmail

Beneath the hype and the drama comes the emotion. You may think transfer deadline day is all glitz and glamour but the reality is different.

I had a feeling my time at Stoke was going to end but I only knew in the final 24 hours of the window that the longest chapter of my club career was going to close, presenting a fresh and unexpected challenge.

Moving on deadline day is something I had experienced before. 

In August 2011, I joined Stoke from Tottenham and one of my abiding memories of that day is Tony Pulis asking his canteen staff to make a curry for us as the clock ticked down while we waited for Daniel Levy to sign off his side of the deal.

So much changes at football clubs but it is the people in the canteen, the security guards, the cleaners and receptionists who you make friendships with — they are the ones who can help create the atmosphere. Stoke, I can assure you, have some brilliant people behind the scenes.

Even at 38, there are still nerves when you join a new club but I am excited to be at Burnley

 

Even at 38, there are still nerves when you join a new club but I am excited to be at Burnley

 

 

Even at 38, there are still nerves when you join a new club but I am excited to be at Burnley

When your time comes to leave, it was tough to say goodbye to them. I knew when I arrived at Clayton Woods and saw Sam Vokes having his medical that was my signal to leave. Good luck to Sam and good luck to Stoke, I was proud to have represented such a great club.

I left with happy memories but I also left with a few pairs of my boots and some shin pads shoved in a black bin bag. I had to rifle through my locker and, bizarrely, I came across a jacket Robert Huth had given me to wear at a Christmas party one year. Safe to say it remained at the training ground.

Part of me was nervous as I made my way north to Burnley. It doesn’t matter how long you have been playing football, the moment you go somewhere new, you know all eyes will be watching to see if you are up to standard.

There was a scheduled stop in Manchester for the most thorough medical I have ever experienced and I soon discovered that the attention to detail they paid in those tests is indicative of the club as whole. 

Saying goodbye to staff behind the scenes at Stoke was one of the hardest parts of leaving

 

Saying goodbye to staff behind the scenes at Stoke was one of the hardest parts of leaving

 

 

Saying goodbye to staff behind the scenes at Stoke was one of the hardest parts of leaving

The training ground, for instance, took my breath away. I have had some varied experiences with training grounds during my career.

I left Tottenham before they moved to Spurs Lodge. I trained at the Navy Base with Portsmouth, at the old British Gas site with QPR and missed the redevelopment of Aston Villa’s Bodymoor Heath.

But Barnfield, Burnley’s headquarters, is brand new. It’s fresh and vibrant and walking into an environment like that inspires you. Straight away, I knew I had made the right decision and the formalities of the transfer were concluded quickly.

Then it was time to make the announcement. I’m old enough to remember the days of just standing for a picture with a scarf above your head but when I walked into the media room, I saw a toy robot in the corner and immediately asked, ‘What is that?!’

Thank God the media team didn’t want to recreate Santi Cazorla’s unveiling at Villarreal by locking me in a smoke-filled tube, but the video they released was all good fun and I’m told it’s the most viewed video the club have ever produced.

The reaction to the move was not what I expected. There was a banner hanging from a railway bridge telling me to mind my head and then a butcher created a sausage in my honour. 

He made it Mexican, which was a surprise. I thought I looked more like a jumbo frankfurter!

In all seriousness, it is humbling. When people from a town show you that support, you want to make a difference for them and I was delighted that I was able to help us get a point against Southampton.

People will wonder why, when I’ve played more than 700 games, anxiety is still a factor but it all comes down to this — I love football so much that I want this ride to last for ever. 

The reaction to my move was not what I expected, a butcher named a sausage in my honour!

 

The reaction to my move was not what I expected, a butcher named a sausage in my honour!

 

 

The reaction to my move was not what I expected, a butcher named a sausage in my honour!

Burnley have given me a chance to play in the greatest league of all again, they haven’t given me a holiday.

When I left Stoke on deadline day, it didn’t matter that I just turned 38. I felt like I was 18 with everything to prove. I don’t want to be seen as a passenger. I want to show I can still do it.

Why it’s madness to rule Spurs out of title race 

There is a trait about modern football that I don’t particularly like — the need to make instant and definitive predictions.

I say I don’t like it, but I also have to admit it’s something of which I have been guilty. 

The title race is the subject that is prompting everyone to put their necks on the line and the past fortnight has been especially revealing for rash judgments.

Manchester City lost at Newcastle and the title was Liverpool’s to lose. Then Liverpool drew at home to Leicester, City beat Arsenal and West Ham took points off Liverpool.

It is madness to suggest that Tottenham are not genuine contenders to win the Premier League

 

It is madness to suggest that Tottenham are not genuine contenders to win the Premier League

 

 

It is madness to suggest that Tottenham are not genuine contenders to win the Premier League

Now we are in the position, following City’s win at Goodison Park, when everyone is saying it is over to Pep Guardiola’s side again. 

It’s madness, given there is so much football to play. It is also madness to rule out Tottenham, who are right in there as well. 

I know bookmakers have them as third favourites but, for the points they have racked up, you simply cannot take them out of the discussion.

There was a point in the season when I thought Manchester City would go unbeaten and said so here at the start of November — the only match then I thought would give them trouble was Liverpool at home — but that prediction was wrong.

They have the advantage now, but it’s mad if anyone believes this has been a defining week for Liverpool. 

Tottenham have managed to survive without their injured stars and continue to get results

 

Tottenham have managed to survive without their injured stars and continue to get results

 

 

Tottenham have managed to survive without their injured stars and continue to get results

I still spend a lot of time in that city and know how strong the desire and expectation is and what it would mean if they were to eventually win it.

Yes, there has been a twist in the story — but there are going to be many more before the middle Sunday in May. 

The Premier League is the best league in the world because anyone can beat anyone and you have to keep this in mind.

It’s why I’m coaching myself not to make any knee-jerk calls.

MY WEEK

 

WHO’S CAUGHT MY EYE: Gonzalo Higuain

Higuain must have been given a big shock on his debut when Chelsea lost 4-0 at Bournemouth — but the Argentine striker showed his class in the demolition of Huddersfield. 

I’ve mentioned him a bit recently and I’m convinced he’ll score plenty of goals. 

NEXT UP FOR ME…

We have a big game at Brighton on Saturday afternoon and then it’s on to Portugal for a warm weather training camp with the squad. 

It will be a good opportunity to get to know everyone better and I hope I won’t have shattered anyone’s illusions by the end of the trip! 

WHAT I’M LISTENING TO… 

Spinn are a new band from Liverpool. I love listening to fresh stuff and these guys have made a big impression on me. Their track After Dark is a particular favourite of mine at the moment. 

 

WHAT I’VE BEEN UP TO…

It has been quite a week and I’d forgotten how much upheaval is involved when you move clubs.

Thankfully, everything has been pretty seamless and I managed to get time to see The Streets in Brixton on Tuesday.

I grew up listening to The Streets and it was class to hear them again.

 

 

 

Comment here