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Peter Crouch gives Stoke City defenders a lesson in cornaft

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Former Stoke City striker Peter Crouch discusses merits of zonal or man-to-man marking and footballs blame game

Peter Crouch, seen heading the ball clear for Stoke at Spurs, was an important player at defending set pieces.

(Image: CARL COURT/AFP via Getty Images)

Peter Crouch was pretty much as important forStoke Cityin defending set pieces as he was trying to score from them at the other end.

So it would be a valuable lesson for the Class of 2022 to listen to his thoughts on the subject afterthe embarrassing goal conceded at West Bromwich Albion last time out.Kyle Bartley had already hit the bar and headed another just wide before he climbed above Ben Wilmot to nod in a cross from John Swift.

Nick Powell had originally been tasked with marking Bartley but he only lasted 20 minutes and Stoke then couldnt contain the 6ft 1in defender. Alex Neil had set up man-to-man marking to try to keep a handle on Albion and Crouch discussed the merits of that systemin the latest episode of his podcast.

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It depends on what perspective youre look at it, he said. As a player, I prefer zonal. Defending first, as a player, Id prefer zonal. Wed have a first man, who is the number one priority, and I used to like the mid-goal space so I could just go out and head it.

From a defensive point of view, if you come into my space I should head it away.

But if youre man to man marking, as a player you are more switched on. Its on the board. If were up against Statman Dave, Peter Crouch is next to him and if he scores people might know at the time but they can ask, Who was marking Statman Dave? Hes just scored, and its literally there in black and white: Peter Crouch.

You immediately switch on and think, I am not letting this man score else it would be my fault. There is accountability for what has happened.

Accountability or not, it didnt Stoke do much good at the Hawthorns, when they were lacking a defender who was willing or able to head the ball.

But Crouch suggested there was never a shortage of teammates being ready to point the finger of blame.

He said: No one wants to take responsibility for a goal going in unless its blatantly obvious. Ive been in so many dressing rooms when, after youve just lost, players go into a little group and bitch about the other group. It happened at most clubs Ive ever been at.

Youd be in the ice bath and youd be saying, ****ing Shawcross yesterday. And hes probably going to Huth, ****ing strikers couldnt finish their dinner. And hell walk in and Ill go, All right, Ry!

My favourite one was when you used to kick off with your partner. Back in the day, me and Defoe would be like, Theyre ***** back there arent they? When weve just conceded a goal wed say, Are you joking? This keepers **** isnt he?

Sometimes youd give them a look as a front two, like a shake of the head. ****, embarrassing. They might have gone 1-0 up, wed got it back, 2-1, weve got it back and conceded again. Were going to have to get three now. You lot are *****.

Thats the nature of football, its a blame game. You dont want to be seen as the weak link in the team.

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