Peter Crouch: ‘Liverpool v Everton a friendly derby? You must be joking’

There's nothing friendly about it

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There should be no extra motivation needed for a Merseyside derby. In recent years it’s been so one-sided with Liverpool being so dominant but if Everton can win this game, it will paper over a lot of problems because it means so much to the fans. And in the position they’re in they need to put points on the board now and in terms of motivation, stopping Liverpool winning the title should be another motivation as well.

But when you look at the two clubs, they’re just a million miles apart and you can’t see anything less than a Liverpool win.

Liverpool’s performance against Manchester United was phenomenal. At the right end of the season they seem to have everyone fit, they seem to have everyone firing, the new signings have hit the ground running.

BERGAMO, ITALY – NOVEMBER 03: Diogo Jota of Liverpool FC celebrates his second goal with his team-mate Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah during the UEFA Champions League Group D stage match between Atalanta BC and Liverpool FC at Gewiss Stadium on November 03, 2020 in Bergamo, Italy. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

I thought City would win the title and Liverpool would win the Champions League but after that United game, and we know they were miles off it, you just think Liverpool can do something really special this year.

When you look at Liverpool’s run-in compared to City it does look harder but that United team is not the United of old and on paper.

United and Everton are two of the easiest games in the league right now.

Sharp Elbows

Some of the Merseyside Derby games I played in, especially the ones at Goodison, the atmosphere, you’d feel it, even on the bus.

Two weeks before the fans are telling you that the derby is coming up. But because usually Liverpool have so much going on, with the Premier League and Champions League and so on, it’s actually Evertonians who are most focused on it.

They still come up to you and say “you’re going to get battered next week”. It’s intense but it’s a great game to play in and a privilege to have played in it.

I played when Everton had a tough side. I remember me and Fellaini had an elbow-off a few times. He’d always come and mark me from goal kicks and he was probably just as bad as me for the elbows. So we had a few scraps over the years.

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Some might call it the friendly derby but I’ll have none of that – you have to be joking! There’s nothing friendly about it when it gets going.

You’d always have a big battle with defenders like David Weir, or players like Joleon Lescott. They’d always be tough games and David Moyes’ Everton were a tough proposition. They had big strong players in every position and we did struggle at times.

I remember scoring at Goodison and I scored my first goal in the derby, which was a really special moment, we won 3-1, and I always remember on the bus on the way in Stevie (Gerrard) was saying to me that if you score in this one you’ll be remembered forever. And I got the first goal and it was a great moment.

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM – JANUARY 26: Peter Crouch of Liverpool taps in for Liverpool’s 5th during the FA Cup 4th round sponsored by E.ON match between Liverpool and Havant & Waterlooville at Anfield on January 26, 2008 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Derby Day Disasters

I played in one Villa-Birmingham derby where Dion Dublin headbutted Robbie Savage, and that was a bad one.

We lost both derbies that year and the other one I played in was with the Peter Enckelman mistake when he let the ball in from a throw-in. It was absolutely horrendous. I remember Olof (Melberg) throwing the ball back and he just lifted his foot up and it went underneath.

And Birmingham had only just been promoted so that was a disaster!

But they were always tight games and we didn’t get blown away in either of those. Because they hadn’t had them for so long, because Birmingham were in the league below, they were one of the most aggressive games, from the fans the atmosphere felt like it was ready to blow at any moment.

The way we helped him through it though was that we gave him a nickname – his new name ended up being Polo-foot because he had a hole in his foot.

It was so disappointing. I’ve never seen a group of players who get labelled so much with bad body language and poor work rate. And playing for a club like Man United, there’s just a lack of desire there. You see that in so many games but not that game!

Soccer Football – Champions League – Group Stage – Group H – Manchester United v Valencia – Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain – October 2, 2018 General view inside the stadium before the match REUTERS/Phil Noble

United woes

I played in big Liverpool v United games too, the least you’d do is run until you couldn’t run anymore.

We played against a United team that was unbelievable. Of course, we had top players, but they were better than us but we made it as difficult as we could for them until the final whistle.

Watching them the other night, it was a sad state of affairs.

I’ve got no allegiance to United whatsoever – I played for Liverpool, my mum was a City fan – but it was just sad to see what’s happening because you want that game to be one of the battles of the old times.

Fouls, cards, last-minute winners. You don’t want to see one steamroller the other like that.

United have just fallen so far from where they were.

It’s just mismanagement top to bottom that Erik ten Hag will have to clean up. Look at some of their transfer windows. why are they buying 30-year-old players on the biggest wages you could possibly pay anyone.

When you look at Liverpool’s model of buying younger, hungrier players or £20-30 million, rather than £50, 60, 70 million. And when they do pay the big money, like for Van Dijk, they make sure it’s spot on.

Someone like Mane is a good example, but every single player has improved since they’ve been at the club. I don’t think you can say that about one player at United.

They sign a player and he goes backwards. And so I think recruitment is probably the number one issue.

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