Crouch is hungry to get his teeth into the Gunners again

THERE IS certainly plenty at stake for this Halloween north London derby, and Peter Crouch is out for blood – it wouldn't be the first time that Tottenham's giant has sunk his teeth into the Gunners...


By Ben Pearce

THERE IS certainly plenty at stake for this Halloween north London derby, and Peter Crouch is out for blood - it wouldn't be the first time that Tottenham's giant has sunk his teeth into the Gunners.

Arsenal's rearguard will be quaking in their boots as they line up against the 6ft 7ins monster at lunch-time on Saturday, because most of them were savagely mauled by the ghoul machine two-and-a-half years ago.

Spookily that three-course feast - during which Emmanuel Eboue, William Gallas, Kolo Toure and Gael Clichy were hungrily devoured - also occurred on Saturday 31, in March 2007, as Liverpool hosted Arsene Wenger's side at Anfield.

With five minutes remaining, Crouch had netted twice. No-one had scored a hat-trick against the Gunners since Matt Jansen in December 2001, but that was about to change.

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Crouch had already gorged himself but he still hadn't had his fill as he mercilessly picked the bones from Arsenal's carcass - pulling the ball down in the penalty area, he bewitched Kolo Toure with a Cruyff turn and prodded the ball into the top corner.

"It was probably one of the highlights of my career, I remember each goal as clear as day," Crouch told Ham&High Sport. "I remember Jermaine Pennant did well for a couple of the goals - as is written on my ball. I got all the lads to sign it and I've got it in my house.

"The third one was quite late on. The first two were in the first half, and I was a bit nervous about getting the third. Getting three against Arsenal would have been fantastic so that was always in the back of my mind, and for me the third was the best one.

"As a personal performance it was right up there. I've been lucky enough to get a hat-trick for England, one for Liverpool and one for Tottenham, and when you're up against a defence of the calibre of Arsenal's it ranks among the best moments.

"I've played in a Champions League final, beating Chelsea in the semi-final, and played in the World Cup, but from a personal point of view that hat-trick against Arsenal is right up there.

"But obviously that is in the past and I have to remember that, while I've proved that I can do it against those kind of defenders, I have to prove it again. I know full well that it's going to be a tough game on Saturday but hopefully I can go out and do it again.

"I enjoyed that hat-trick but to be honest I think we'd all take a scrappy 1-0 win with Spurs. Arsenal are playing very well but we've certainly got enough about us as a team to go there and win."

When he arrived at Tottenham in August, Crouch was already enthusing about the north London derby. And now that the biggest game in Spurs' calendar is just days away, he is champing at the bit.

"I am really excited, I've been fortunate to play in some big derbies, some big games," he went on. "Obviously the Liverpool-Man United game that I saw the other day, I played in that and that was fantastic.

"I played in the Birmingham derby, I played in the south coast derby. I've played in a few, but this is certainly one that you look for when you're somebody who watches football.

"I always look at the north London derby and see how passionate it is and see the quality of the game, so I'm really looking forward to it.

"I watched the game at the Emirates last season, it was an unbelievable game to be honest. I'm not sure it's good for the managers or anyone else concerned when you see a 4-4 game, but we'll take any sort of a win over our local rivals."

Few people will know that Crouch has also travelled across north London to face Arsenal in Tottenham colours - and that day he scored the winner.

The striker started his career at White Hart Lane as a trainee in the summer of 1998 and, although he never appeared for the first team, he did face Spurs' arch-rivals in a crunch final.

"I've got good memories of playing against Arsenal in the Premier Youth final, the Under-19s youth final," he said. "They actually beat us 2-0 at White Hart Lane, but the second leg was at Highbury and I scored the winning goal that day, live on Sky. It was a decent memory but hopefully I can do the same again this weekend."

Crouch admits that Arsenal's two-goal capitulation against West Ham will give Spurs plenty of encouragement ahead of this weekend's clash.

"You saw at the start of the game when they went 2-0 up that they play great football, as they always do. Hopefully we can keep that to a minimum and, as West Ham proved, you can come back and you can score goals against them. Hopefully we'll be tight at the back and get a good result.

"I think at the start of the season a lot of people wrote off Arsenal. They've got a young squad but they seem to have shown everyone that they can still play.

"But I think we've also surprised a few people by the way we've started. We're in the top four at the minute and we want to stay there as long as we possibly can.