Peter Crouch has opened up on the incredible influence Steven Gerrard had at Liverpool, admitting he felt himself trying to impress his captain more than the manager in training.
Even when that manager was Rafa Benitez, the Champions League and La Liga winning boss who oversaw Crouch's signing from Southampton for the Reds back in 2005.
Despite playing alongside the likes of Frank Lampard, Xabi Alonso and David Beckham, the striker explained that Gerrard was the player who left the greatest impact on him due to his talent level and the sky-high standards he set.
"When you walk into that dressing room at Liverpool - my performance went up, everyone's performance went up," Crouch told BT Sport's Premier League Tonight show.
"Because that death stare from Stevie, when he raps the ball [passes it quickly] into you and you don't keep it... it just takes you a level up. My game went up tenfold."
"For me, the best player pretty much every day was Steven Gerrard."- Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) January 29, 2021
"At times I found myself trying to impress Stevie instead of Rafa!"
Love this from @petercrouch on how standards set in training can force players to raise their game :muscle:
That death-stare sounds terrifying :eyes: pic.twitter.com/TmYeEk5JLI
Crouch added that the pressure on new recruits to raise their level to the standard of the club was intense, due to the demands set by Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.
"Honestly, I saw players go under," he said. "Really go under. Because you know what Stevie and Carra are like - within the first training session, they are writing £20 million players off. It's sink or swim!"
"I wanted to succeed so badly at that club... at times I felt myself trying to impress Stevie more than Rafa."
Despite a slow start to his career at Liverpool, Crouch did eventually get up to speed with his club and England national team colleague.
He played in the 2006 FA Cup final win against West Ham - a game in which Gerrard memorably scored twice - and featured in the run to the 2006/07 Champions League final.
"We did get a good understanding," added Crouch of Gerrard. "It definitely took my game up so much - and it was sort of one player dragging people up and making their games better: by his demeanour, the way he trained, the way he was around the place, he lifted the whole club."
Gerrard has certainly made a positive start to his own full-time managerial career in Scotland.
Taking over as Rangers boss in 2018 with the task of unseating a dominant Celtic side, the Liverpool legend has gradually improved his team to the point where Rangers now have a 23-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership (albeit having played three games more than Celtic).
Many Liverpool fans believe Gerrard will be the man to one day take over from Jurgen Klopp at Anfield. And judging by Crouchy's comments, the players will not be in for an easy ride if and when that day comes.
All imagery: PA Images/BT Sport
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