Crouch confident despite Owen's injury woe

September 26, 2007

Peter Crouch insists England have the striking 'riches' to be able to cope with Michael Owen's latest injury woe.

Newcastle forward Owen has been ruled out of next month's crucial European Championship qualifiers against Estonia and Russia with a groin injury and possible hernia problem.

It is a massive blow for England's hopes of reaching next year's finals, with the 27-year-old in scintillating form for his country in recent matches.

Liverpool striker Crouch hopes to be given the nod to replace Owen in manager Steve McClaren's starting line-up and insists he and his fellow understudies are up to the challenge.

'We are rich in the striking department,' Crouch said on Radio Five Live.

'We've got the strength in depth to cope with any injuries we've got.

He added: 'I certainly believe we have got players to come in and can certainly do more than a job.'

Crouch pointed to the re-emergence of Emile Heskey on the international stage as proof McClaren has a healthy pool of forwards from which to pick.

'I was suspended for the first qualifier (against Israel in September) and Emile Heskey came in pretty much from nowhere and did a fantastic job,' Crouch said.

'Before that, Emile Heskey wasn't in the squad and that shows the strength we have got.'

The resurrection of the Owen-Heskey partnership against Israel and Russia was considered a huge success.

But Wigan forward Heskey broke a metatarsal in his first club game after the Russia victory to scupper any hopes of the pairing being retained next month.

And with Owen also now unavailable, McClaren will need to conjure up an alternative winning formula.

Crouch is confident that whatever strikeforce the England boss chooses, it will be a success.

He said: 'Myself and Michael Owen played away in Estonia, scored and won 3-0 as well. That worked.

'If Owen's out, we've got Andrew Johnson, Wayne Rooney's fit now. We've got Jermain Defoe.'

Crouch was the victim of Heskey's international renaissance, and while he admits he would much rather be playing, he insists the team comes first.

'I'll be honest, you want to be playing,' he said.

'All footballers are probably selfish. They want to be playing games, they want to be playing for their country.

'We are fans at the end of the day. Us qualifying for the European Championships is the most important thing.

'Not being at the championships doesn't bear thinking about.

'Whoever best to play in that role to get us there, so be it.'

Something that could work against Crouch's bid to fill the void is the alleged attitude of referees towards him at international level.

Former top referee Graham Poll recently revealed FIFA warned his fellow officials to pay close attention to the 6ft 7in striker at last year's World Cup.

Crouch said: 'If I'm honest, it fills in a few gaps for me.

'Certainly in the Champions League and in international football, I feel like I've been penalised far too much, whereas in the Premier League I haven't been penalised for things.

'I've had to adapt my game in internationals and the Champions League.'

He added: 'I feel the way I play is within the rules of the game.

'I'd like to find out from the governing body if I was targeted.'

Meanwhile, Crouch has warned Liverpool team-mate Fernando Torres his sensational hat-trick at Reading will count for nothing when Rafael Benitez picks his team to face Wigan this weekend.

Torres netted his first treble in English football to inspire last night's Carling Cup third-round victory at the Madejski Stadium.

In any other team, Torres could probably expect to keep his place, but not under Benitez's rotation policy, according to Crouch.

He said on Radio Five Live: 'The manager's made it clear that no matter if you score a hat-trick in one game, if he sees two strikers playing and doing the best job for the next game, then they're going to play.

'That's the way the manager works and his record hasn't been too bad so I'm sure he'll continue doing the same thing.'