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Ledley King believes the experience of Peter Crouch is the perfect example to all young professionals who don't make it first time at the club of their choice.

Ledley King believes the experience of Peter Crouch is the perfect example to all young professionals who don't make it first time at the club of their choice.

The striker came through our Academy ranks with Ledley before not quite making the first team breakthrough and heading off to QPR in July 2000. He hit the goal trail at Loftus Road with 12 goals in 42 starts and attracted the attention of Portsmouth, where he spent just eight months before a big money move to Aston Villa.

The Villa Park switch was not an unqualified success and a loan stint which helped Norwich City towards promotion came in the middle of his time there. At the beginning of the 2004-05 season Crouch was on the move again and headed to Southampton where he spent just a year.

Some 16 goals in just 23 starts caught the eye of Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez and Anfield beckoned for the former Spurs trainee. He may have taken a long and winding road, but the 25-year-old made it back to one of England's traditionally elite clubs and is tipped to be named in England's World Cup party come the end of the season.

"Of course, Liverpool is a massive club by any standards," reasoned Ledley. "After he left here it could have gone the other way for him and I've seen it happen to other players I've played with.

"Testament to his mentality, Crouchy has gone on to big things. He has been around a bit, scored goals at each club and has justified his big move.

"It is a good example to young players. As I said, I have played with many players here who have left - some of them are still playing and some aren't. Crouch has shown what can happen if you take on board what you have been told. With the ability he has, his hard work shows that you can bounce back and get to the top of the game."

A run of games without finding the net at the beginning of the season led to Crouch being subjected to intensive media coverage and a level of vitriol from opposing supporters before the goals began to flow when he netted two against Wigan in early December.

Ledley feels the criticism directed at his friend was unjust and that Crouch is responding in the perfect way in proving his worth to his new team.

"Because of his height he is different and obviously stands out a lot more," continued the skipper. "People feel they can knock him and he can take it. Anyone who knows Crouchy knows he is the nicest guy in the world and he didn't deserve a lot of the stuff that was thrown at him - much of it nothing to do with football.

"He has shown what he is all about by replying with goals. Even when he wasn't scoring he was still doing well for the team and he was backed by all the important people. Now he is scoring goals everyone is seeing what Liverpool paid for.

"I speak to him a lot, he is enjoying himself up there and when things are going well on the pitch everything is easier."

Of course, Ledley will be seeking to make life anything but easy for his former teammate this afternoon, but knows from past experience that he himself could be in for a tricky 90 minutes.

"When he is used the way he should be he can be unplayable. He is so tall with good feet, his hold-up play has improved a lot and he has got many dimensions to his game - not just a big man all about flick-ons.

"He is someone you have to watch."