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Football: Crouch never got a chance; WORLD CUP 2006 VILLA: Taylor surprised O'Leary dumped striker so soon.

Byline: By Bill Howell

GRAHAM Taylor admits to being surprised that David O'Leary did not give Peter Crouch a chance at Villa.

Crouch was starting alongside Michael Owen today as England's World Cup campaign got under way against Paraguay in Frankfurt.

The striker was a substitute at Portsmouth in Villa manager O'Leary's first game in charge in August 2003 and was immediately loaned to Norwich for three months.

O'Leary was less than impressed with his record of four goals in 15 appearances at Carrow Road and Crouch returned to Villa as very much a bit-part player.

The lowest ebb of Crouch's time at Villa Park came after he had scored twice in a 5-0 win at Leicester in a rare run-out in January 2004 but was dropped for the next game at home to Leeds.

Crouch scored just two more goals for Villa, taking his total to six in 37 league appearances, before he was sold for pounds 2million to Southampton.

Taylor said: "I thought that because O'Leary had watched at close quarters how Niall Quinn had turned from a gangly 18-year-old into an international centre-forward of some repute that Peter would be all right.

"But we all have our ideas on players and he sold him, which left Peter at a crossroads."

Taylor, who had signed Crouch for pounds 4.5million from Portsmouth, says that Saints chairman Rupert Lowe more than likely signed the player.

"The story goes that Southampton's manager, Paul Sturrock, didn't want him and that Rupert Lowe pushed through the deal.

"And when you look at what happened at Southampton - Crouch hardly played until Harry Redknapp arrived - it adds up.

"As a result he scored goals in the latter part of the season and got a pounds 7.5million move to Liverpool."

CAPTION(S):

FALSE DAWN... Peter Crouch celebrates his two goals in the win at Leicester - he was dropped for the next match.' DAVID O'LEARY.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jun 10, 2006
Words:320
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