PETER CROUCH is confident that Stoke City’s successful tour of the United States will help them to hit the ground running in the Barclays Premier League.
Crouch and his team-mates rounded off the trip by drawing with Sporting Kansas City after an injury-time equaliser denied them victory in a game in which they created the better chances before eventually going in front through a Michael Tonge penalty.
The England striker believes that all three matches – two of them against Major League Soccer opposition – have provided the ideal test for them in their pre-season build-up as they work towards the season opener at Reading in a fortnight’s time.
“I am sure we will feel the benefit of being out here because it has been a good test for us,” said City’s record signing following the draw with Sporting Kansas.
“It’s all about making sure that we hit the ground running at the start of the season and in that sense all three matches have been a good workout for us.”
He added: “It was a pity that we got hit with the late equaliser in this match, but it’s not about results, it’s about getting the right sort of preparation.
“You could go through a whole pre-season and lose every match, but that doesn’t matter one little bit if you then win your opening League match.
“Everything is geared to ensuring that we are ready for the first match against Reading and three weeks into that build-up, it’s going really well.”
The biggest challenge for City’s players has been dealing with the heat and humidity at all three destinations on the trip, none more so than Kansas City.
They had to contend with temperatures touching the 100 degrees at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, but even though they were up against opponents at an advanced stage in their season, they still enjoyed the upper hand and created many clearcut opportunities.
“It has been tough dealing with the heat because we are not used to it, but we know we will be so much stronger for having come through it in good shape,” he said.
“When we get back to England, there is still a lot of work to be done, but I am sure we will notice a difference in terms of our fitness for having played out here.
He added: “It has been a fascinating experience to see how strong the game is out in the States and it is clear that it is only moving in one direction.
“The game is growing all the time, standards are improving and the facilities are fantastic, as we have seen here in Kansas City. It’s not surprising then that a lot of Premier League teams are coming out here and players are joining the MLS.
“While I am very happy at Stoke at the moment and we have an excellent set-up there, who knows playing in the States might be something to consider in the future.”
Sporting Kansas coach Peter Verms had a message for Crouch at the end of the post-match press conference at LIVESPORT Sporting Park.
“Over the past two years, we’ve played Manchester United, who then won the Premier League following their visit here, and Newcastle United who did exceptionally well last season. The pressure is on buddy,” he quipped.