That Peter Crouch Podcast returns for a second series on Wednesday, 20 March from 20:00 GMT on BBC Radio 5 Live. Listen live or catch up on BBC Sounds. Here, co-host Tom Fordyce explains how the Burnley striker has become the “Peter Ustinov of the Premier League era”.
There are certain questions that always crop up when someone finds out you’re a sports journalist.
Over the past decade these have included but not been limited to: is Lance Armstrong on drugs; have you met Usain Bolt; do you get free trainers; has X had a hair transplant; is everyone on drugs, and, can you get me tickets for the Masters?
(If you’re yet to meet a sports journalist – and it’s no sort of bucket-list item – it’s yes, lots of them; yes; very occasionally; cost him £35K, it’s his third; no; and no chance.)
For the past six months all those old reliables have been replaced by a new one.
I’ve been asked it at parties, in the street, at BBC Sports Personality of the Year, while having my hair cut and at matches.
It’s usually accompanied by a chuckle and a little smile, as if fondly remembering a favourite old joke, and it’s delivered as if the answer is already known: “What’s that Peter Crouch really like?”
‘He’s one of them, but also one of us too’
The fun in answering the old questions was in delivering an answer that wasn’t expected.
True Lance believers always reacted to the true Lance nature as if you had made base allegations against Father Christmas.
A good hair transplant can fool even the most discerning eye.
People really, really want tickets for the Masters.
It’s almost disappointing to have to inform the Crouchistas that the man they hear each week on That Peter Crouch Podcast is exactly the same as the one who comes on for the last 10 minutes of Burnley games, or that they might spot hiding under his patented Train Hat while using public transport.
He is very tall. He has many, many fine stories. He makes you laugh. He doesn’t really understand what a podcast is.
There is no dark side of the Crouch. If the pod were in need of a poster tagline, you might go for something like, “One of them, but one of us too”.
He’s a millionaire footballer who sees the game’s extravagances and idiocies the same way as we do.
He’s scored for England at World Cups but will happily waste an afternoon chewing over the dirtiest tacklers of all time.
He also seems to have been present at an unfeasible number of events, both footballing and social.
‘The Peter Ustinov of the Premier League era’
There is the stuff you know about – Champions League finals, FA Cups, England triumphs and disappointments. Then there are the stories that come in from listeners: of seeing Crouch dressed as a chicken having his feathers trimmed at the Brighton branch of Toni and Guy, or getting stuck into a game of Play Your Cards Right with Dev from Coronation Street on a Euston-bound train out of Stockport.
Such is his accidental ability to have appeared as a bystander or participant in so many bizarre scenarios that he can sometimes appear to be the Forrest Gump of elite football.
At other times he becomes the Peter Ustinov of the Premier League era, a raconteur telling of the time a prominent member of the Royal Family informed him his wife was out of his league, or when Steven Gerrard attended a Christmas function disguised as an old-age pensioner and riding a mobility scooter.
With the obvious caveat that the moment you self-indulgently deconstruct how a show works you are signalling its demise, there is no intention in this second series to mess with the template we stumbled upon for the first.
Each week Peter, Chris Stark and I pick a topic. Team hotels. Footballers’ houses. Kits.
The three of us discuss it briefly on WhatsApp and then discuss is at much greater length in the pub. The second one of these is recorded and becomes the podcast.
It’s not Sergeant Pepper. The BAFTA committee can rest easy. But in the same way that the best nights are the always the spontaneous ones, which makes you vow to plan more of them until you realise that detonates the very idea, the lack of rules liberates us to go where we choose.
Which Premier League club has the poshest shower gel in its changing rooms. How you decide who sits where on the team bus. How Graeme Souness reacts when he spots you doing yoga on holiday.
In other words, what life is really like as a professional footballer. Not the stuff you already know, or the stuff you think you know, but what really goes on.
About the height thing. Even those expecting a tall man are taken aback when confronted with the full Crouch reality. Chris and I are both nine inches shorter than our pod co-host but weigh more than he does. Neither of us is curvy.
We try not to mention it on the podcast because when you have heard something for 30 years of your life it gets a little tiresome, and also because a man from Blackpool called Karl did it for us in the first series and is still happily riding the social media backlash that followed.
Going global with the Crouch ambassadors
Karl has also claimed responsibility for sabotaging the packs that were sent out to the thousand-odd successful applicants to be That Peter Crouch Podcast ambassadors. Each was meant to receive a t-shirt, some flyers, a badge and a certificate. No-one seems to have got the badge. Karl seems to know why.
Undaunted, the ambassadors are already sending in photos and videos of themselves passing the pod in full Crouch regalia.
There is a football team in Vietnam wearing the branded t-shirts as their actual team kit. There is a statue in Oslo wearing the t-shirt to keep warm. Ambassadors for Hong Kong and Thailand are already establishing official alliances across fractious geopolitical borders.
It all promises rather well for the 12 episodes of this second series, although it would be foolish to make too many firm predictions; the first series ended with a Christmas special in a suburban curry house featuring an Andres Iniesta lookalike who has never before had a professional engagement and two men dressed as giant cats dancing to a Michael Jackson tune played by Homes Under the Hammer presenter Dion Dublin on the drum he himself invented.
If that somehow sounds like your bag, subscribe on BBC Sounds or whatever podcast app you prefer, and each fresh episode will be on your phone as soon as we’ve patched it up. Unless Karl intervenes, which can’t entirely be ruled out.