Peter Crouch: ‘I first did my robot dance at David Beckham’s house party’

My first love was Italian football. It was so flamboyant. Gianluca Vialli was my idol; he had this effortless style. I was also transfixed by the Football Italia show on Channel 4, James Richardson sitting by a swimming pool with his pink Gazzetta dello Sport and his tiny little cup. I said to Dad, “Why is his cup so small?” He had to explain it was an espresso, not a tiny cup of bog-standard tea.

I can be romantic. When I proposed to Ab [Abbey Clancy, Crouch’s wife] in a villa in Ibiza I set up candles all the way downstairs so she could follow them to me. I once whisked her away for a weekend in Paris and surprised her with a new outfit each night. Not all of it was perfect, but I tried my best. When I played football I used to write little poems for her and leave them around the house. I should still do that really.

I was very apprehensive about fatherhood. You just don’t know if you’ll be any good. Ab was very maternal. But babies weren’t a huge thing in my family. I have four kids now, I can safely say I’m quite good.

Maybe football fans liked me because I’m one of them. Some players get caught up in their own hype. But I knew I was lucky. I enjoyed myself, people could relate to that. Some players don’t even smile when they score. I find that difficult to understand.

I first did my robot dance at David Beckham’s house party before the 2006 World Cup. After a few drinks I thought, “I’ll do something stupid on the way to the toilet.” I didn’t know the camera got me. I shat myself when I saw it had been filmed. The lads were saying I should do the dance next time I scored. So I did.

I’m the most political I’ve ever been. I recently had a meeting with Tracey Crouch, the former Sports Minister, and Prince William about the plight of non-league football, whose finances have been crippled by Covid. It’s so unfair. I joined Dulwich Hamlet as a 17-year-old and it opened my eyes to real football. This was people’s lives. A win mattered. Finances were hard. I’m a director there now, I’ve gone full circle. These clubs need help.

I sometimes worry about getting dementia. As a tall player [6ft 7in], I headed more balls than anyone in Europe for five or six years, so if anyone is going to struggle, it will be me. As a kid I used to practise heading until my vision became impaired and I saw stars. Today, I would never do that with my children. But back then we weren’t to know.

My greatest achievement was changing people’s opinions of me. I was very different to a lot of footballers, so I got a lot of stick. The tall gags got a bit tiresome. And the terraces aren’t kind to a young, skinny 18-year-old lad. But to overcome all that and play for England meant I’d proved myself.

Peter Crouch: Save Our Beautiful Game is available on discovery+ now

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