FANS think modern footballers are pampered, overpaid prima donnas with no idea about the real world.
And they are right, according to former Premier League star Peter Crouch.
The ex-England striker has written another hilarious book called I, Robot: How To Be A Footballer 2, exposing the often bizarre lives of elite players.
Having played for a host of top-flight clubs over his 20-year career, including Liverpool and Spurs, he knows all about player eccentricities.
In this follow-up to 2018’s How To Be A Footballer, he describes a professional game filled with childlike figures who follow the crowd, unable or unwilling to think for themselves.
Peter, who is married to model and 2013 Strictly Come Dancing winner Abbey Clancy, writes that they “wear the same brands of overpriced clothing, drive the same unnecessarily fast cars, live in the same leafy enclaves” and even use identical Louis Vuitton washbags.
If some of the beanpole goal-getter’s anecdotes sound like tall stories — one involving Hollywood leading man Mickey Rourke in particular — Peter insists they are all true.
At a book event, Peter said: “A lot of people don’t know the life of a footballer. Footballers can often be a bit guarded. I don’t want to be guarded. I take the p**s out of footballers. There is a lot of ridiculous behaviour.”
Peter netted 22 times in 42 appearances for the Three Lions and won a cult following with his “robot dance” celebration.
He won the FA Cup with Liverpool and has scored more headed goals than any other player in Premier League history.
Since retiring in July he has worked as a pundit for BT Sport and hosted a show on Amazon with Gabby Logan and John Bishop, called Back Of The Net. He also has his own podcast.
Here, in his own words, Peter proves football really is a funny old game.
SQUADS change so quickly these days that teammates can be virtual strangers.
When ex-Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez took his team go-karting ahead of a 2007 Champions League game with Barcelona, the bonding trip almost ended in disaster.
Peter writes: “I was not built for a go-kart. As I was coming into the pits, the brakes had gone and Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Xabi Alonso and Dirk Kuyt were standing in the way. I thought, ‘Kuyt’s getting it’.
“I went flying into him. He jumped up, I went under him and I went straight into the fence. The go-kart burst into flames.”
He jokes that as Kuyt was a fellow striker, competing with Peter for a place in the team, it made sense to hit the Dutchman.
And he says racing was livelier than the usual ways of passing time in hotels: Walking around the car park, playing Trivial Pursuit and doing footie quizzes.
THE iconic robot dance Peter did after scoring for the Three Lions ahead of the 2006 World Cup turned him into a cult figure . . . and not just in England.
When the generous star took five mates on holiday to Miami, Florida, he was spotted by Hollywood actor Mickey Rourke.
Rourke wanted to party with Peter and his pals for three nights in a row, which was more than the England ace could stomach.
He writes: “I was going through a nightclub where there was a fella who looked like Mickey Rourke. This fella said to me, ‘You’re Robot Boy’.
“It WAS Mickey Rourke and we both started doing the robot dance. It ended up being a 4am-in-the-morning job.
“‘Tomorrow,’ he said, ‘let’s do it again’. So we had another great night out with him.
“At 9am the next day, there was a knock on the door. I looked through the spyhole and it’s Mickey Rourke.”
His hungover mates told Peter not to answer the door but Rourke persisted, sliding them a note inviting them for dinner that night. They didn’t take up the offer.
IF you want to dine a la Premier League, there are three restaurants in London and two in Manchester where you really need to book a table.
In London, the top players all eat out at Nobu, Novikov or Sexy Fish – all within a short walk of each other in Mayfair. They may go on to drink at the May Fair Bar.
Peter describes this as “the golden rhombus of Saturday-night entertainment for top-flight stars, whether they live in the capital or not”.
Manchester’s eateries of choice are San Carlo on King Street or Wing’s on Lincoln Square. They invariably plump for the same dish: Black cod.
It sounds better than the canteen food on offer before matches and training.
Peter reveals Gareth Bale would wolf down baked beans on toast before games for Tottenham Hotspur while everyone else at the club ate plain pasta and chicken.
Spaniard Juande Ramos was so obsessed with counting team calories when he was Spurs manager that he even banned tomato ketchup from the players’ canteen.
BEING paid huge sums to maintain peak physical fitness won’t stop some players sinking a few pints on an evening off.
Peter, who played alongside both of them with England, says: “I wouldn’t pick Becks for a night out because he’d bring too much attention. But Wayne would be up there. He’s a good laugh on a night out.”
He also selects former England right-back Glen Johnson, for insisting on guests wearing fancy dress even for a night at his house playing poker, and Peter’s former QPR teammate Paul Murray.
When Murray was kicked out of a pub, a mate smuggled him back inside in a big kit bag. The barred player downed pints while he was sitting in the bag.
A night partying with Peter and the former Spurs winger David Bentley in Malia, Crete, proved too much for his wife Abbey.
When she looked up at Bentley dancing on the bar, she slipped and fractured the coccyx at the bottom of her spine.
Peter writes: “I’ll never forget the image of her lying face down on the bed, the female doctor massaging cream into Abbey’s naked ar*e as she repeatedly threw up into a bucket.”
THE typical summer holiday for a Premier League star changed a lot over Peter’s two decades in the game.
The star says he had no desire to head for Tenerife in the Canary Islands or the Cypriot resort of Ayia Napa.
But when he was starting out as a player, all the other young first-teamers were heading to those cheap and sunny climes, so Peter followed suit.
Identikit clothing for players back then were Maharishi trousers and sleeveless tops, which Peter jokes he didn’t have the biceps for.
What promised to be a more sophisticated holiday in the island of Sardinia with wife Abbey almost turned to disaster when waves drove their motor boat towards dangerous rocks.
“What had begun as a romantic gesture was running into a horror movie,” Peter writes.
He had only a corkscrew to cut the anchor rope, free the boat and escape disaster.
At the last moment, the boat broke free – before Peter and Abbey were forced into the water.
Peter also recalls having “awkward” encounters on holiday with players he had tussled with on the field.
But he writes: “Two days later, you’re playing golf with him – absolute best mates – because you’ve realised you have so much in common.
“It’s like a footballer holiday romance, with lines like, ‘Explain the story behind that charming new tattoo’.”
In later years, Peter says, the top players were more likely to favour breaks in Dubai. Now, the in thing is a rented home in the Hollywood Hills near LA.
AWAY games in Europe present clubs with an organisational headache. Players are certainly not allowed to get involved in the planning.
Countless footballers have forgotten or mislaid their passports prior to travelling for big games abroad.
Now they are required to hand over their documents to staff well in advance of a match overseas.
These elite sportsmen are often not trusted to bring their own underpants or adaptors for their mobile phones.
Peter writes: “We can’t do things for ourselves. Many players will have literally no idea what country they’re in.”
There are drawbacks to being waited on hand and foot . . . such as trying to figure out whose washbag is whose after handing them in.
Peter writes: “You give your washbag to a girl who puts it in a bigger bag with everyone else’s, which causes a panic because everyone has the same brand of washbag.
Later, you witness the unsavoury sight of ten grown men fighting over identical Louis Vuitton washbags.”
According to the striker, most players do not know how to fill in a tax return or buy their own home because their agent or accountant would normally do it all for them.
He adds many players hire chefs to cook all their meals and will book another player’s interior designer to decorate their pads. It seems originality is not highly prized.
- I, Robot: How To Be A Footballer 2, by Peter Crouch, is out tomorrow.