No Premier League player goes out to hurt an opponent... but I'll never forget the day I lost my two front teeth
- You want to put down a marker but never intentionally hurt an opponent
- There has been recent debate due to Andy Carroll's elbow against Watford
- I had my two front teeth knocked out during a game against Newcastle United
- Tony Pulis will get a job to save a team in the Premier League - he's No 1 at that
- Referees have to do more if they want to eradicate diving from the game
- Christmas has arrived in the Crouch household courtesy of my wife Abbey
Stoke striker Peter Crouch is writing an exclusive column for Sportsmail
At the beginning of each game, one thought goes through my mind. It has always been the same, right throughout my career.
When I'm lining up and waiting for the first high ball, the only thing I'm thinking is this: 'Right, I'm winning this, no matter what.'?
It's your opportunity to put down a marker in your battle with a central defender. You want to let them know you are there.
Don't confuse this, though, as me wanting to hurt someone.?
I can say, hand on heart, I have never, ever gone out with the intention of 'doing' another professional and I'm pretty sure that attitude exists among almost all footballers in the Premier League.
A debate has been reignited due to Andy Carroll's elbow during the Watford match last week
And I include Andy Carroll in that statement. Suddenly the use of elbows has become a topic for debate after what happened six seconds into West Ham's game at Watford last Sunday but what Andy did at Vicarage Road is not wildly different to a hundred challenges in which I have been involved.
There have been times when I have caught people with my arms and elbows. Some will ask why I have to lead with those parts of my body when the ball is up in the air but there is no other way to propel or protect yourself. You have got to jump with your arms and elbows.
It's horrible when you connect with someone and the first thing I feel if I've hurt an opponent is a sense of regret. Of course I want to win my personal duel and impose myself but never to the point that all lines must be crossed and someone ends up being substituted.
Incidents stick in your mind with elbows. Growing up, I will never forget the damage John Fashanu inflicted on Gary Mabbutt. That was absolutely horrible. The same was true when Ben Thatcher, who was playing for Manchester City, clattered Portsmouth midfielder Pedro Mendes in 2006.
It is impossible to forget the damage inflicted on Gary Mabbutt by John Fashanu in 1993
Pedro Mendes' collision with Manchester City's Ben Thatcher was another sickening moment
You can tell when someone has deliberately attempted to inflict damage. And, believe me, nothing does more damage to a footballer than an elbow. I have been on the receiving end of plenty myself down the years.
I've had stitches in my head — a scar from a clash with Nemanja Vidic above my right eye is a permanent reminder of a day my goal for Liverpool put Manchester United out of the FA Cup in 2006 — and been knocked out. You've got to take the rough with the smooth and put your head where it hurts if you want the rewards.
There have also been two or three occasions when I have broken my nose, one of which provided all the evidence I needed to see what damage could be done with an elbow. It was November 2012 during a game for Stoke at home to Newcastle.
Just before half-time, Fabricio Coloccini flung his elbow at me as we went for a ball. I was going to carry on but immediately I knew I was in trouble as my two front teeth popped out and I actually caught them as they fell from my mouth. Can you believe I actually tried to put them back in?
I had my two front teeth knocked out during a clash with Fabricio Coloccini at Newcastle
We were doing 'Movember' and it meant I was sporting a 'tache while I was covered in blood
We were doing 'Movember' at the club back then. There I was, sporting a 'tache, with my face covered in blood and my two teeth missing. As you can imagine, I looked as good as the description sounds. I thought I was going to end up looking like Joe Jordan!
A bit of dentistry sorted everything out, however, and I've now got pearly whites! But the collision stayed in my mind. Did Coloccini do it on purpose? It was passed off as an accident that evening but I felt he swung his elbow intentionally. Only he will be able to answer that question.
You'd have to be a seriously nasty piece of work if you deliberately wanted to use your elbows to hurt another player.?
I look at mine, with the bone pointing out, and I know how much pain it could cause someone. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if people thought I had used it intentionally.
The game has moved on these days from what I grew up knowing in the 1980s and early 1990s. You cannot get away with anything on a pitch any longer, given how many television cameras are dotted around stadiums.
Everything you do gets picked up and analysed and you will get pulled up for the slightest infringement. If somebody deliberately led with their elbow to hurt someone, it would not take long for football's authorities to be in touch.
But can you take elbows out of football entirely? That is impossible. Accidents will happen, players will get hurt but I don't believe they are being swung intentionally. All you want to do, whether it is Andy Carroll, me or whoever, is be aggressive — and win the ball.
All Carroll will have wanted to have done is be aggressive and win the ball at the same time
Another week and it's nice to know I've had the boys who look after the Premier League record books working for their money again!
My phone lit up like Blackpool illuminations on Monday night when I switched it on after our draw with Brighton and there were plenty of people in a hurry to 'congratulate' me on my latest 'achievement'.
I told you all last week how proud I was to be first in the list of top-flight headed goals and, all being well, there will be plenty more of those to come. I'll have no trouble in later life describing each and every one and they'll get better and better with time!
My substitute appearance against Brighton meant I broke another Premier League record
But will I also be shouting that I hold the most substitute appearances by a Premier League player? Dear me.
Look, on one hand, if someone said when I was a young kid I'd play 143 games in the Premier League as a sub I would have taken it. Is this record, however, one to tell the grandkids? Let's see.
How can I put it? We'll just say it won't be the first thing I tell them!
Tony Pulis will get a salvage job?— he's No 1 at that?
There is no middle ground with Tony Pulis. Depending on which side of the debate you stand, you'll either dislike him or love him. It is that simple.
What isn't up for debate is the way I think about him. I'm firmly in the latter category and can't speak highly enough of how he treated me and my family when he brought me to Stoke. It goes without saying I was disappointed to see him sacked by West Brom this week.
Critics are saying it will be difficult for him to work again, that his methods are outdated, but you know he will get another job.
The next team that sacks a manager, and it is getting close to that time where you need to keep someone up, I don't think there is anyone better.
Recently sacked Tony Pulis is one of the best managers when it comes to organising a team
It gets said he won't play expansive football but the players he's worked with as manager have, in general, been below the level of top-six sides. First and foremost Tony wants his teams to be organised because without organisation in the Premier League you get picked off.
Tony is one of the best at organising a team, making them tough to beat. His philosophy was to have seven or eight players who were very, very disciplined and then two or three who could be a little bit more creative and try to unlock defences.
When you play up front for him on your own you know it is going to be tough because the team behind you is more defensive-minded. You maybe don't get the service you like. Training isn't about fun for him. He doesn't care if you haven't got a smile on your face.
If I were the chairman of a Premier League club, I would not think twice about hiring Pulis
There is a lot of shape and sometimes the players want to do more but he won't let them because they have to be fresh for the weekend. That is his philosophy and it is what he has always done.?
He's been successful with it. The work he did at Stoke, Crystal Palace and West Brom speaks for itself.
Big teams don't want to come to the clubs he is managing because they know they will be in for a demanding game every single time. If I was chairman, I wouldn't think twice about hiring him. I don't think he gets the respect he deserves. I really don't.
Refs must help to stop diving too?
We saw the first Premier League player banned retrospectively this week for diving and I think it's good the FA have taken steps to remove the problem from our game.
But on the flip side of what happened to Everton striker Oumar Niasse, who was suspended for two games after colliding with Crystal Palace defender Scott Dann, I would say referees are going to have to start giving penalties when there is contact and a player does not go down.
I've seen so many shirt pulls or fouls when a player tries to stay on his feet and the penalty isn't given. That is a big problem. If you stay on your feet, your manager and your teammates will hammer you. Simple. You have cost your team.
Niasse won a penalty on Saturday when it was deemed that Scott Dann (left) had fouled him
So you have got to find a way of drawing attention to the fact there has been contact. Sometimes players go down knowing there is about to be contact. If you don't go down, you don't get the penalty.
Diving is not condoned in the Premier League and when someone comes into our squad from abroad who does dive, I'll always tell them we don't do it here. But unless referees start awarding penalties — even if a player doesn't go down when there has been a foul — you'll keep on seeing diving.
Until referees become stricter and start punishing shirt-pulling in the area or illegal tackles that don't necessarily knock someone to the floor, players will still exaggerate fouls. Nobody wants to see diving in the English game but there is still a long way to go to removing it altogether.
WHAT I'VE BEEN UP TO...
Nothing rock and roll. I'm doing everything I can to keep Christmas at bay!?
How early does the build-up start? I've been saying to everyone since the?beginning of November that it's best to wait before putting your decorations up but, clearly, nobody has been listening.?
In the middle of the week, I walked into the house to find two trees, two wreaths and Abbey busily wrapping presents. There was also a Santa sat in the middle of our kitchen. If Christmas has yet to arrive with you, it most definitely has in the Crouch household!
Who's caught my eye...
NEYMAR - He?was ridiculous against Celtic. He looks hungrier and more selfish in terms of wanting goals than he was at Barcelona.?
He's gone up a level with PSG and if he leads them to the Champions League — they are definitely potential winners — you could see him winning the Ballon D'Or.
Forward Neymar looks hungrier at PSG than he did during his time with Barcelona
What I'm listening to...
I've always liked The Wombats and their new track Lemon To A Knife Fight has been getting plenty of play on the way to training.?
I'm delighted they have announced a UK tour and I'll be there next March.
Next up for me...?
I've got a busy week coming up. First there is a trip to Crystal Palace on Saturday. Selhurst Park is always a tough place to play and I can't remember the last game I actually enjoyed there!?
After that I'm looking forward to playing against my old club Liverpool on Wednesday.?
Then, to round the week off I'll be hitting the O2 Arena to watch Kasabian. I suppose crowd surfing will be result dependent!
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