Peter Crouch has come a long way since leading QPR to relegation, though not far enough writes the Guardian’s Kevin McCarra.

Sven-Goran Eriksson must have been fascinated by the new partnership of Peter Crouch and Michael Owen. He even wanted to see how they looked coming off a pitch together. They were both replaced at the same time in New Jersey after the then Real Madrid striker had assembled a hat-trick in England’s 3-2 win over Colombia in May.

There should be a second cap for Crouch tomorrow and the combination with Owen will almost certainly be resumed. The latter trained yesterday and, barring any recurrence of his muscle injury, will face Austria in the World Cup qualifier. Crouch has become the foremost candidate for the vexed and perhaps impossible task of being the foil to Owen.

Crouch (above) would be the most unexpected of solutions. He is a large man but managers have often budged him – Liverpool are the seventh club to have had him on their books and he is a mere 24.

Some managers even made it a priority to move him on. David O’Leary inherited Crouch when he took over at Aston Villa in May 2003 and the player was soon on loan to Norwich before being sold to Southampton. Crouch could not even establish himself at St Mary’s until the transfer of James Beattie to Everton at the start of this year.

With its frequent transfers, Crouch’s career has been a to-and-fro debate on the worth of a target man nowadays. Those who favoured him looked to be in the minority, although that is now countered by the prestige of advocates such as Rafael Benítez and Eriksson.

He will not flourish in the old-fashioned way. Even if he were a far more decisive header of the ball, contemporary defences would remain adept at stifling the predators he is aiming for. The build-up can benefit from Crouch but it still needs variety and flexibility.