The BBC’s chief sports writer Tom Fordyce attempts to work out how That Peter Crouch Podcast ended up recording its Christmas special in a suburban curry-house…
‘A suburban curry-house, an Andres Iniesta lookalike and two men dressed as giant cats’
There are the nights you can see coming – a birthday, a gathering of old friends, a work meal out.
And then there are the gatherings that make no sense: a footballer who scored for England at a World Cup, singing the wrong version of a Marvin Gaye classic in a suburban curry-house with the dentist who looked after his teeth when he was nine years old; a bloke from Coronation Street talking to an Andres Iniesta lookalike who has never before had a professional engagement; 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; two parents, one sister and two blokes who had never met four months ago but who are now firm friends.
‘The most surreal, enlightening and joyously ludicrous show’
It makes no sense at all if you haven’t been listening to That Peter Crouch podcast, in which case it makes the most perfect sense possible. What began with a seed of an idea on a train to Macclesfield and germinated when Peter, Chris Stark and me sat down in a circle with glasses of pump ale has somehow become the most surreal, enlightening, joyously ludicrous show any of us have been involved in.
‘Finding out what life is really like as a professional footballer’
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. So each episode has always had only the loosest of frameworks: some emails and tweets from the listeners, a simple central topic – dressing-rooms, or tactics, or fashion – and a straightforward premise: to find out 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 – which Premier League club has the poshest shower gel in its changing-rooms, how it’s decided who sits where on the team bus; why goalkeepers think they can play on pitch when they barely qualify as footballers in the descriptive sense at all.
‘Having a haircut whilst dressed as a chicken’
That’s the plan. And then the diversions happen, or the stories from people Crouch can never remember meeting who cannot forget their meeting with him, or the stories from Crouch that make you think: can this really be true, and how come this hasn’t come out before, and oh my goodness wait ‘til the wider world hears this one.
Sometimes Crouchy can seem to be the Forrest Gump of elite football, such is his accidental ability to have appeared as a bystander or participant in so many bizarre scenarios. At other times he is the Peter Ustinov of the Premier League era, a raconteur with anecdotes involving members of the Royal Family, of having a haircut whilst dressed as a chicken, of watching one of England’s all-time greatest players attend a Christmas function disguised as an old-age pensioner and riding a mobility scooter.
‘You’d call it a shambles, which would be fair’
You think you know where you’re going with the podcast and then it takes you somewhere else, and then a listener takes it somewhere else entirely. You’d call it a shambles, which would be fair, but the sort of shambles that makes you feel like a member of the most marvellous secret club where everyone on the inside knows something special that the wider world does not.
‘I was there and I can still barely fathom what went on’
And the gathering in the suburban curry-house? That was the special season-ending show that brought together so many of the accidental heroes and stars of the first 12-episode season run. I was there and I can still barely fathom what went on.
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