When Peter Crouch made his debut as a TV football pundit in 2014, he got a bit of a shock.
“I went to India for a week to do the World Cup as a pundit. I thought I’d cut my cloth out there,” he recalled on That Peter Crouch Podcast last year. “We were in Mumbai, and on my first appearance I was with Mikaël Silvestre and a Bollywood star.
“We had a little rehearsal and [the producer] said, ‘Right, so the game’s about to start, we’ll be live in 10 minutes. Here’s the touchscreen, so when you use the touchscreen at half time…’ and I was like, ‘Excuse me?'”
Crouch was completely unfamiliar with how to use the device – which allows pundits to freeze-frame moments from the game and draw on-screen graphics to highlight players and analyse strategies.
“I was dropped into that situation thinking, ‘How have I got myself into this position where I’m live to two billion people with a Bollywood star and Mikaël Silvestre, with a touchscreen I’ve never used before?!”
Needless to say, when the show went live “there was a lot of buttons that I didn’t use… I went with a couple of bendy arrows and moving players”.
Fortunately, Crouchy is feeling better prepared for his new TV series – Peter Crouch: Save Our Summer – which begins on BBC One this Saturday.
He’s got some help too, in the shape of co-presenters Maya Jama and comedian Alex Horne. Unusually for a TV show at the moment, all the presenters will be in the same studio – albeit socially distanced.
The show was originally intended to be a post-match series for Euro 2020 but, of course, football matches were among the many events abandoned because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Euros got cancelled, Glastonbury got cancelled, the Olympics are cancelled, Wimbledon cancelled… It’s not been a great summer has it?” says Crouch.
“So we thought we needed to bring smiles to people’s faces, so instead of it being around the Euros, we tried to make it around all those things.”
The format has now morphed into a wider Saturday night show fusing sport, music and entertainment.
“Some of the people that were supposed to be at the Olympics have kindly signed up, and we’ve got a tournament going on,” Crouch explains. “We’ve got people playing live gigs, and some amazing guests.
“I think it’ll take people’s minds off what’s been going on. It’s going to be good fun.”
In his professional career, Crouch played a total of 468 Premier League matches for Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa, Southampton, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Stoke City and Burnley.
Before retiring last July, the striker had scored 108 goals in the top flight, of which 53 were scored with his head – a Premier League record.
But, like many retired footballers before him, he’s now transitioning into a successful broadcast career.
While Dion Dublin has been presenting Homes Under The Hammer and Match of the Day host Gary Lineker has become one of the BBC’s biggest stars, Crouch has built a hugely successful podcast with co-hosts Tom Fordyce and Chris Stark.
That Peter Crouch Podcast from 5 Live is already into its fourth series, and was the most downloaded BBC podcast in the first quarter of this year. In 2019, the show racked up 12 million downloads, despite only releasing 15 new episodes.
‘I love Loose Women’
You may have seen the trailers for Save Our Summer, which feature several “two-metre Peters” – cardboard cut-outs of the footballer which came in extremely useful when applying social distancing rules during rehearsals.
Asked what attracted him to the show, Horne jokes it was “mainly Crouchy’s beauty”, but adds the new format could be an improvement on the original idea.
“I actually think not having the football in it is going to make it a lot better, because we now don’t have to talk about the home nations’ disappointing performances,” he laughs.
“Yeah we’ve ruined enough summers, to be honest,” Crouch admits.
Horne continues: “It’s great to have a live band in the studio. There aren’t enough shows with actual bands playing live – it’s basically Strictly and that’s it. So it’s a really good atmosphere in there.
“And obviously we don’t have an audience but we don’t really need it, because there’s nine of us before the guests come on. So it feels great in there, really fun and summery.”
For Jama, who recently announced her departure from Radio 1, it’s a chance to return to her roots.
“I actually started as a football presenter… so I thought we were going to do sporty fun [on the show],” she says.
“But obviously my first love is music and entertainment, so when I found out that it was changing and we were going to be able to have everything in one, and on Saturday night, I was like, ‘Obviously. Of course’.”
Halfway through the press launch for Save Our Summer, Crouch has to pause briefly to restore order in the house.
“Can you see this?” he asks. “The dog’s run in, there’s mud all over the carpet, all the kids have come in, Ab [wife Abbey Clancy] is going mental. And I’m in the posh living room. Apologies, carry on.”
Back on track – Crouch explains that some elements of the series were filmed pre-lockdown.
“Part of the show is me doing the ultimate retirement,” he says. “I’ve been taking a few ex-team-mates who have retired as well to do things we couldn’t do when we were playing, and the first one I did with JJ [Jermaine Jenas] was jumping out of a plane.
“I felt confident the whole way through and as soon as we got to jumping out, that’s when I started losing it. When I jumped out, I’ve never been so cold. My feet were like blocks of ice and it sort of took away the enjoyment of the whole process.”
He adds: “In some ways, I hope this show never gets commissioned again, because I’ve been close to death on a few occasions. It’s not been fun, it’s been excruciating at times, and jumping out of a plane was one of them.”
One of the main benefits of getting in front of the camera, he adds, has been keeping himself busy at a time when many retired players feel at a loose end.
“I was so scared about retiring from football. You hear stories about people struggling and sitting there not having much to do, watching Loose Women,” he says.
“And listen, I love Loose Women, but I didn’t want to sit there and have not a lot to do. So I took on a few things, and the things I’ve taken on are only things I enjoy doing.”
Which, in the case of his new TV show, hopefully won’t involve too many touchscreens.
Peter Crouch: Save Our Summer begins on BBC One at 21: 15 BST on Saturday.