• Striker disputes England snub and keen for call-up
• Manchester City continue to struggle in the Potteries
Peter Crouch has held his hands up to using one of them to put Stoke City ahead against the champions but not to a charge of deserting England ahead of Euro 2012. Roy Hodgson overlooked the scorer of 22 international goals against Moldova and Ukraine because, the England manager claimed last week: "He made it clear that unless he was in the squad [for the Euros] he didn't want to be considered." The truth, countered Crouch, is somewhat different.
The focus on Saturday was on Michael Owen's debut for Stoke (it amounted to three minutes of injury time and no touches of the ball – we move on) but it was their other forgotten England forward who demanded attention against Manchester City. And not simply for the two touches of the hand that culminated in one neat finish, a third goal in three games for Crouch and an astonished Roberto Mancini. "It definitely hit my hand, I'm not going to lie to you," admitted the goalscorer. "It was NBA," said the City manager.
At 31, with a record of one goal in every two games for England, with Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll injured and a shallow pool of talent to draw on, Crouch was ignored for the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign for refusing to go on standby for the Euros, according to Hodgson.
"It wasn't a case of being a standby," the striker responded. "He wanted me to play in one of the friendlies before the Euros then go home. I'll be honest, I was bitterly disappointed not to be called up to the full squad and I think understandably so. We had a conversation but I think that should remain between me and the manager."
Crouch claims there is no lingering animosity between himself and the England manager and does not consider his international career finished. "He was asked a question about me. I have no grudges about that at all," he added.
"I didn't have the opportunity to go to the Euros. I was a bit frustrated, but playing for my country is the best thing I've ever done in my career and I will never rule that out. If I get a chance to play for my country again I'll grab it with both hands. I'm not too concerned with it. I'll just keep playing as well as I can for Stoke and if the call comes that would be fantastic."
Crouch, as Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott can testify, remains a nuisance with a good touch and clever movement. He also remains the focal point of a Stoke team trying to introduce more possession football under Tony Pulis, but whose potency continues to lie in commitment, industry and the set-piece.
Stoke have started the season with four draws – they have won just one of their last 16 matches in total – and on Saturday were helped towards their point against the champions by superb stoppage-time interventions from Asmir Begovic, who turned Javi García's header on to a post, and Ryan Shawcross, who hooked Edin Dzeko's lob off the line. But despite the champions' belated pressure, it was a point thoroughly deserved.
Andy Wilkinson could face an FA sanction for raising an arm to Mario Balotelli, depending on the referee Mark Clattenburg's interpretation of events, but Stoke did not have to resort to the physical to disrupt City's flow. The visitors have yet to find their rhythm this season, although Maicon delivered an assured debut, as did García, who equalised Crouch's opener with a free header from a Carlos Tevez free-kick.
But Mancini's trials in the Potteries continue. The City manager, who has not won in five trips to Stoke, reflected: "It would be better next year if we don't come, we take one point each and we stay at home. We won't spend any money on the hotel."
Man of the match Asmir Begovic (Stoke)