On his first day at Stoke City, Harry Souttar, a wide-eyed 18-year-old newly arrived from Dundee United, was shown into the home dressing room. His first impressions of Peter Crouch were not entirely flattering but they soon melted away.

Crouch, a 42-time capped England international, was the senior professional in the Stoke dressing room, at 35 he was the veteran of 12 clubs and more than 500 first-team games.

The towering young Scot, 6ft 6ins in stockinged feet, sensed a pair of eyes sizing him up. When he looked up, Crouch was glowering at him. Soon after, the gangly striker disappeared out of the door through which Souttar had just come. A few minutes later he returned, his feet squeezed into a pointy-toed pair of women’s stilettos.

“Big man, come here,” he said with a smile on his face. “I’m meant to be the biggest player in this dressing room. Now don’t forget it.”

It’s a story which speaks to the broad appeal of Crouch, a blokeish, playful sense of humour which mocks not just the recipient of any gag but the protagonist himself. And thus it has always been.

Crouch, who once posted a picture of himself on social media, eye-to-eye with a giraffe on a sky-high veranda during a safari with the words ‘Just out for my morning stroll,’ does a nice line in self-deprecation, it gives him that everyman appeal.

Nevertheless, you know cultural life has been turned on its head when Louis Theroux, interviewer of quirky, out-there celebrities, is thanking Crouch for inviting him on to his show to be interviewed. 

But then Crouch is a three-time published author and host of a podcast that was downloaded more than 12 million times in 2019.

The second of those aforementioned books How To Be A Footballer has been described as “one of the funniest books ever written” while the Daily Telegraph claimed that Crouch was “on his way to being a national treasure”. He might just be there.

At 6ft 7ins, the rise of Peter Crouch started in his teenage years when he signed for Tottenham Hotspur, and despite a career in which he possessed unique gifts but was also limited, it has barely slowed since.

Gerry Francis, the former Spurs manager who later signed Crouch for QPR, the club where he started to make his name, recalls his first sighting of the player and how the then teenager’s abilities had been underestimated. It was something he set about drawing out of Crouch.

"Some kids shoot up in their teens but even at 12 Peter was tall and very skinny. He's obviously taken some ribbing over the years. I remember him walking across the pitch when he joined us at Tottenham and people looking at him thinking 'what the hell is that? There's no way he can play, surely?' Well you should never judge a book by its cover. He had a good touch. He was intelligent, and when he jumped no one could touch him.”

Crouch turned perceived disadvantages to his own end but it’s unlikely that even Francis would have predicted career earnings of £27m for his prodigy.

Guiding him has been father, Bruce, a creative director with world-renowned advertising firm Bartle Bogle Hegarty, whose credits include commercials for Levi’s, Boddingtons and Bertolli. He has imbued in Crouch, the ad man’s flair for a brilliant one liner.

There is a serious side to Crouch, too. He has talked previously of the pain he felt when having to ask his father why, at the age of 14 and 15, he was different to everyone else. He has been frank, too, about how he would cry when he was abused by football supporters who would mock his appearance.

In How To Be A Footballer, he writes about his early experiences of hearing fans chant ‘freak, freak, freak’ at him, of songs enquiring whether the circus knew he was there and of seeing his father involved in half-time scuffles with fans who had spent the previous 45 minutes mocking his son.

Famously asked what he would have been if he hadn’t made it as a footballer he said ‘a virgin’. It is an oft-quoted tale but it contains the essence of Crouch’s success.

He owns the abuse now, reverting to the age-old comedic device of the clown act. Saying what people think just as they’ve thought it. Yet, he knows what he is doing and he does not seek our pity, he’s too intelligent for that. That is part of his charm. Crouch knows how to appeal to a mass audience by exploiting himself. But who is laughing at whom?

Again, in How To Be A Footballer, he writes: “First things first: Yes, I am very tall, no the weather isn’t different up here, and no I don’t play basketball. Glad that’s out the way.”

It’s the kind of pithy observations his dad would have been proud of, and helps explain his ascent to household name.

His appearance on primetime Saturday night television show Peter Crouch: Save Our Summer proves it is a seemingly irresistible rise, surely destined to culminate in a slot hosting the government’s daily press briefings in lieu of the prime minister when the inevitable second Coronavirus spike occurs. 

A mission statement explaining the show’s rationale read: “Everything has been cancelled – music festivals, sports events and so on – but we’re going to bring a little bit of them all to this Saturday night show.”

Taking credit for the idea is Fulwell 73, the production company behind the excellent hit Netflix series Sunderland ’Til I Die and the awful Gary Barlow And Friends. Save Our Summer feels more like the latter as Crouch and co-host Maya Jama are introduced on to a garish beer-garden set by a live band. Last weekend, Crouch had his eyebrow pierced by his wife, the model Abi Clancy, and won a coconut shy contest. He is not a natural presenter but his quick wit came through when involved in exchanges with guests such as the almost-equally ubiquitous Jack Whitehall.

Alas, the show had the misfortune to air at exactly the moment Premier League football was returning to our screens thus betraying its own mission statement somewhat and giving the impression that it was commissioned following one of Alan Partridge’s pre-pitch daydreams to fictional BBC executive Tony Hayers.

The show has been panned by critics and, in conclusion, feels like a rare gaffe by the previously bullet-proof Crouch, someone who has spent his career measuring strengths and weaknesses but has been badly advised on this one.