Peter Crouch: ‘When a manager talks about fixture congestion, it can put an excuse in your head’

Jurgen Klopp isn't happy with the fixture pile up.

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A short turnaround between games can get in your mind. It would be worse if they were travelling on the Wednesday. And there is another way of looking at this – if they kick off later, they are closer to the next game, on the Tuesday, which they’ll have to travel for. So there are swings and roundabouts – they have to travel to Spain on Monday and they have a bit more time to recover than if they kicked off at 3pm or 5.30pm.

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I think as well, at this stage of the season, realistically you’re never 100%. There will be niggles, there will be aches and pains, that’s just how it is. Whatever time you kick off, you’ve just got to get through it.

Players do sometimes talk about it. I think sometimes when a manager talks about it, it puts something in your head, almost like an excuse. It’s not ideal.

There is potential for the Premier League to help out sides in Europe

But I mean there is a hell of a lot of games, and to a foreign coach or player they think it’s absolutely ridiculous. The Christmas schedule for instance, they think it’s bananas, which I understand – most countries have a break and we play a load of games and I don’t think that’s going to change.

Sometimes in European leagues they will move games to help teams who are playing in Europe midweek and the Premier League could adopt something similar to that.

However, the broadcasters pay a lot of money to show the best teams and Liverpool fall into that. But I do think there is potential for the league to help out because the league is improved if you get the players at the peak of their ability.

TOON’S NEW ERA

Liverpool travel to Newcastle this weekend, with Eddie Howe’s men in fine form. We can quite easily get carried away in football with the romance of it all. Let’s be honest they were favourites for relegation for most of the season, they were right down there and bang in trouble. And Howe has done an amazing job, but I think the biggest thing they’ve achieved is getting that roar back at St James’ Park.

It’s been toxic there for a while, with all the Mike Ashley business and even with Steve Bruce towards the end, it was not a good atmosphere there. And they’ve managed to turn that completely around but it’s still going to take time and I don’t Europe is a realistic possibility next year. They’ve stayed up this year, and if they can get top half next year they can then kick on in the following year.

Maybe they could target a cup. If they win anything, that place will erupt, and it would amazing if they did.

Newcastle and Liverpool had a few special games from the 90s, specifically the two 4-3’s. I remember watching those games live. Even the commentary, you can hear it now, “Barnes, Rush, Barnes, Collymoore closing in!”, you remember Keegan’s head slumped over the advertising boards and I still remember this all as clear as day. I remember Fowler on fire. Asprilla’s dink through.

You remember that game like it was yesterday. It was a phenomenal game of football. But that was just how Newcastle played at that time, I just loved watching them in that era.

Pep Guardiola Manchester City

THE BUZZ UNDER THE LIGHTS

Man City v Real Madrid was a similar game this week, it was totally mad. The buzz is unbelievable! Night games in general really are like that really, even if they’re 0-0 you’re still buzzing. After the game you can’t sleep. To be honest this probably isn’t sound advice for the younger professionals, but I’d have to have a couple of beers to get to sleep. Because I’d actually feel better have a few beers and getting to sleep than not having a few and staring at the ceiling all night.

When you’re playing in those games, you know they’re good and when they’re exciting. It’s like, there’s so much going on, there’s so much going wrong, there’s so much going right, defensively you’re like “f**king hell we’re having a nightmare”, but attacking wise you think you’re going to score every time you go forward.

But I remember the Champions League semi-final I played in. It was such a cagey game – Rafa Benitez vs Jose Mourinho. It was tight, they were trying to outwit each other. I think Joe Cole scored at Stamford Bridge and Agger scored at Anfield so it was 1-0 either way. So cagey, so few chances. And then watching the City v Madrid game, it was like the wheels had come off! It was carnage. But it was a great spectacle.

KarimBenzemaRealMadridOct21

MANAGERS

I’ve had managers you just couldn’t second guess. With Rafa you had no idea what he was thinking. Very rarely did you know if you’d done well or badly. He’d never tell you ‘well done’ and he’d never tell you if you were hopeless.

Whereas for me personally I’d prefer someone like Guardiola who’d you know if he was fuming or really happy with you, and similarly with Klopp. I think that is a better way because at least then you know if you are going wrong or right.

Harry Redknapp wore his heart on his sleeve – afterwards you’d know if he as fuming or if he was happy. And he let you know very quickly either way.

BENZEMA ON FIRE

Karim Benzema impressed once again this week at Man City and he’s in with a shout of winning the Ballon D’or – he’s been banging in goals all season. He’s been at Real Madrid 10 years and some of his numbers are ridiculous. He’s up there with Raul now in their all-time records. It’s absolutely amazing what he’s achieved – I felt sorry for Lewandowski when he missed out on it after banging in all those goals, and then it got cancelled, and would be a shame if he never won it, but Benzema without doubt has been great.

Mane’s a great shout. He’s won the AFCON already, and if he goes on to win the Champions League, the Premier League and if Liverpool completes the quadruple then it would almost certainly have to go to a Liverpool player, and then Salah and Mane are your standouts for it.

CHANGES AT OLD TRAFFORD

I think Ten Hag is a top manager but it’s such a different job going from Ajax to Manchester United. At Ajax he’s got very young, hungry players who want to achieve bigger and better and he’s going into Manchester United where there’s a group of players that perhaps think they’ve made it and aren’t as hungry. He’s got players on massive wages and a huge rebuilding process to go through and it remains to be seen if he can do it.

United are a bit of a running joke with the players always on their phones, tweeting and instagramming apologies after games and I’ve been in the dressing room when players are addicted to their phones.

I saw it creep in towards the end. The card school stopped or playing darts or pool. Things like that were dying out really and, on the bus, it used to be very much the hub of the season, it was the trips on the coach where you’d all be laughing and joking and building that good camaraderie. But towards the end of my career, it was more phones, headphones on, watching films and doing your own stuff which was a bit of a shame really and I’m glad I played through both eras.

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