If David McGoldrick ever fancied piggy-backing on The Tall Boy’s literary success, he could do worse than title his own memoir, I Was Peter Crouch’s Boot Boy.
For such indeed he was when, as a teenager, theSheffield United and Ireland striker signed for Southampton and discovered that taking care of Crouchy’s footwear was not without its rewards.
“I was his boot boy, I used to clean his boots,” McGoldrick confirms with a smile.
“He used to give me £40 (€44) a month and every time he scored he’d give me a tenner on top. He got a move to Liverpool that year after I think he scored 15 goals so I got a few extra tenners. Christmas time, he came and said did I want a bonus or did I want him to take me on a night out?
“I said: ‘I want a night out with Crouchy’ so I went on a night out with Crouchy. He got me drunk and I went home (laughs).”
The serious business at Southampton back then was all about blooding and developing young talent, with McGoldrick one of those tipped for the top as a half-a-million-quid acquisition from Notts County.
But, aged 16 upon arrival, he quickly discovered that the Saints youth team was already glistening with stellar promise.
At my first training session, Theo Walcott trained and I hadn’t seen pace like it for a 15-year-old. He had lightning, lightning pace.
“Technically-wise, Adam Lallana was ahead of everyone. He had a problem with his heart so he missed out a season which put him back a little bit.
“Gareth Bale was quiet for the first couple of years but then one summer he came back just like a man. He just filled himself up and came back with loads of confidence and as soon as he got in the team he took off.
“For raw talent, it was Theo and Adam but Gareth developed into a monster like I’d never seen.”
For his part, McGoldrick has taken a far more circuitous route to where he is now, finally getting to experience life in the top-flight with Sheffield United at the age of 31.
For his slow-burning breakthrough, he freely admits he owes a considerable debt of gratitude to Mick McCarthy, formerly his manager at Ipswich and, latterly, the supplier of an unreserved recommendation when Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder was scouting the striker.
“For him to give a good reference about me to Chris is not something that surprised me really because that’s just the man he is,” McGoldrick observes.
What you know about Mick is that he’s an honest man. If you show him respect he’ll give you respect back. Quite rare these days. And Chris and Mick are exactly the same. I can understand why they get on — I see a lot of similarities in them as men. Both Yorkshire men, both working class, and both just real good men.
“Before the football, you can have a laugh and joke with them but when it’s time to get serious you don’t cross the line with either of them because you know you’ll get an earful. And that’s the best kind of manager for me, personally.
“I played under Mick for six years, that’s a long time in football to play under one manager, and me and Mick never had one bust-up.”
A defining characteristic of both men, McGoldrick suggests, is that they see the human being not just the footballer, in stark contrast to some of what the player has experienced with other managers he prefers not to identify.
“It’s seeing the whole picture,” he says.
“Everyone’s human and everyone can have things in their life where they’re needed. I’ve been to managers before asking ‘can I go to the birth of my kid?’ and getting a ‘no’.
“Well, I was allowed to attend the birth of my daughter but the next day I had to get the train all the way to the club and then I was an unused sub. So that was poor enough.
“But in these past couple of years under Mick and Chris…I had a problem with my little girl in hospital and one with a birth, and (it was) ‘yeah, fine, go be with your family, that’s the main thing’.
“When you’ve got a man who can respect your life, you respect him and you will do what he says out there on the pitch. You’ll run through a brick wall for him.”
A bonus for McGoldrick of being part of the Blades’ Irish contingent is that he now comes into the international camp as a Premier League player who can converse on common ground with hisfellow top-flight performers.
That’s one of the main things I’ve enjoyed, people asking me how did I think Chelsea were, that it’s not me asking, all star-struck, ‘what was this player and that player like?’
“I had Skip [Seamus Coleman] coming in to me as soon as I arrived the other day, asking me about the Prem, talking about this and that. You don’t actually realise but that’s a big confidence boost. You’re on equal terms — not with Seamus because Seamus is a legend — but we’re playing in the same league now, not in different leagues.”
And, all these years after he started out, when it comes to dealing with his own boot boy at Sheffield United, McGoldrick hasn’t forgotten how it used to be for him back in the day.
“Exactly,” he says.
“That’s someone’s kid at the end of the day so you don’t show them no disrespect.”
But, in a modern game awash with money at all levels, you don’t need to go all Crouchy and lavish them with comparative riches, either.
“He gets a few bob but he doesn’t get the goal bonus,” McGoldrick chuckles. “There’s enough elsewhere for him, don’t worry. He don’t need it.”