One of the perks of being married to a Victoria’s Secret model, says former England striker Peter Crouch, is that your wife goes off to work to pose in sexy undies, then gets to bring home some of the merchandise.
Back of the net, mate?! Alas, no.
‘Do you know what she came home with? A fleece dressing gown,’ he says.
‘Of all the things to take from a Victoria’s Secret photoshoot.’ But Abbey Clancy, aka Mrs Crouch, loves her fleece dressing gown. ‘Pete hates it but I’m going to be buried in it,’ she says.
Sometimes she wears it over her regular clothes, like an old-fashioned housecoat.
Peter, 42, and Abbey, 37, met 18 years ago by the toilets of a Liverpool pub. He was a 24-year-old playing for Liverpool FC; she was a 19-year-old finalist in the Britain’s Next Top Model contest
She possibly even vacuums in it, because she vacuums all the time (Dyson downstairs, Miele upstairs, if you are wondering, which I was). ‘It’s a borderline obsession,’ says Pete of the vacuuming.
The thing about vacuuming in a dressing gown, though, is that you don’t want the cord dangling. Peter, 42, replays how Abbey, 37, secures her dressing gown. ‘She double knots! One knot to the front, one to the back. It’s like getting into Fort Knox.’
What a joy it is to be at home with the Crouch-Clancys. Technically, I’m not at home with them — we are in a photographic studio near their home in Surrey — yet after reading their new book, I feel I could be in their actual house, having left my mucky shoes at the front door, obviously on Abbey’s insistence, and accepted a coaster to put my coffee cup on.
Their new book, a kind of (albeit selective) A-Z of their life, is called The Therapy Crouch. It is not, Abbey stresses, a book about how to bag a footballer, be a Wag, or stay married —even when your millionaire husband buys you a phone charging cable for Christmas.
Abbey regards him as a project she is still tweaking
It is an extension of their popular podcast of the same name.
Pete started his own chart-topping podcast in 2018, but when Abbey began to make brief appearances listeners loved the banter.
He, in turn, loved the fact her personality came shining through in a way that it hadn’t before — not even when she won Strictly in 2013 — and a joint podcast was born.
‘I think there was a perception about Abbey — you know, married to a footballer, model, thick, the sort that goes shopping and leaves the babies with a nanny. Nothing could be further from the truth with Abbey. She’s incredibly funny, sharp …’
‘Sharp?’ interrupts Abbey, sharply. ‘Is that a compliment?’
‘Yeah. Sharp as in witty,’ says Pete.
‘I thought you meant sharp-tongued.’
‘Well, that too.’
It is 18 years since these two met by the toilets in a Liverpool pub. He was a 24-year-old playing for Liverpool FC; she was a 19-year-old finalist in the Britain’s Next Top Model contest.
The Therapy Crouch is also the name of the couple’s shared podcast. Peter started his own chart-topping podcast in 2018, but when Abbey began to make brief appearances listeners loved the banter
She decided he was the one on the spot, then went to the loo. When she came back, he was talking to another girl and she wasn’t having it. ‘Our first row, and we weren’t even together yet,’ he says.
He was living in a grotty flat at the time, where he kept dried pasta in the fridge and slept on a camp bed that didn’t even — Abbey is still horrified, nearly two decades on — have matching bedding. Abbey swept in, with Marigolds. ‘She brought cushions, flowers…’
‘And bleach,’ adds Abbey.
Now they have four children, a beautiful house and matching white teeth that must sparkle in the dark.
They arrive separately for our interview and photoshoot, having dropped the kids at different schools.
They are chalk and cheese. He is so laid-back he is almost horizontal; she can be a hoot, but gives off don’t-mess-with-me-or-my-white-carpet vibes. Is it true your mates are terrified of her, Pete? ‘Oh they are s***-scared of her,’ he nods.
Abbey explains: ‘They come into the house with their muddy feet, typical boys, and they leave rings on my surfaces.’
The obsession with cleaning (yes, they have a cleaner, but she also likes to attack the shower grouting herself) is all very well, but isn’t a Victoria’s Secret sex goddess supposed to be swinging from the chandeliers, not dusting them?
‘You can still be hot and have a nice clean house,’ she declares.
Does Pete clean, ever? ‘You could give him a million quid and he still wouldn’t be able to tell you where we keep the Hoover.’
They say they never row, not really, but their shared hobby seems to be bickering — often about how many cushions Abbey needs on the bed.
Today, words are exchanged about whether they need another dog. He says they don’t; she says they do. The fact that they are picking the new puppy up after this interview suggests the argument is already won.
‘It’s a cavapoo,’ says Abbey. ‘They don’t shed.’
Life goals: Abbey and Peter renewing their vows with their children in the Maldives in 2022
When I comment that many wouldn’t have expected their marriage to last the course, Abbey reminds me (and Pete) that the final whistle hasn’t blown yet: ‘We might not even end up together now. Who knows?’
Pete nods. ‘Not after this f***ing dog.’
In some ways they tick all the boxes you expect from a footballer/model marriage. They reek of money (also often of Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream, which she introduced him to. ‘Because I’m worth it,’ he beams).
It’s estimated Pete earned around £10 million from his playing career, and he is still handsomely paid for pundit jobs.
Abbey, too, has serious earning power. She went on to present Britain’s Next Top Model, has a new homes-based show in the pipeline and often collaborates with fashion brands.
She could be financially self-sufficient, says Pete in the book, but, hilariously, ‘somehow it works out that what’s hers is hers and what’s mine is hers’.
‘I’m not proud of it,’ she retorts. ‘I can’t quite bring myself to waste money on a Gucci handbag. Pete can buy that.’ Does he, often? ‘No!’
I can’t bring myself to waste money on a Gucci bag… Pete can buy that
On the subject of excess, Peter groans. ‘We wasted so much. Someone gives you all that money, and you are a kid…’
‘We’d go ‘Let’s rent a 20-bedroom house for just the two of us’,’ she shudders.
What are the most extravagant presents they have exchanged?
‘Probably when you got me the Porsche,’ he says.
She recalls the time he bought her a two-metre charging cable.
A thoughtful present, he argues, ‘because she was always reaching over to my side of the bed to plug hers in’.
Abbey insists marrying Pete was never about the money, or about being a Wag. She wanted ‘to have a nice house, a family, kids’.
Interestingly, Pete says that, back in the day, football clubs encouraged players to settle down early, believing that domestic stability helped avoid the excesses that can derail football careers.
Their wedding was a big splashy footballer-weds-model affair, which (rather touchingly) they both regret now.
‘It was the sort of wedding we felt we should have rather than the one we maybe wanted to have,’ he says.
Abbey and Peter’s wedding in 2011 was a big splashy footballer-weds-model affair, which they both regret now.
Put it this way, they engaged the services of Elton John’s florist and, because Wayne Rooney had had the Stereophonics playing at his wedding, Pete enquired about getting Simply Red to serenade them, but quickly scrapped that idea when they wanted a million pounds.
They’d started trying for a family even before the wedding, but it took them two years for Abbey to get pregnant, with her getting more and more distressed when it didn’t happen. Pete complains about becoming little more than a sperm-machine in those days.
And then, when she was just a few months old, Sophia, the eldest of their four children, needed surgery.
The following three weeks were the worst of their lives, and didn’t half make them grow up.
‘We were kids then,’ nods Abbey. ‘If Sophia (now 12) came to me at 22 and said she was trying for a baby, or wanting to get married at 24, I’d say ‘You are not’.’
She says being thrust into the limelight at 19 was a horror
Their book is very heavy on the narrative that Abbey regarded the hapless Peter Crouch — genius goal scorer, but not a man who knew his Gucci from his Gap — as a project. One she appears to still be tweaking. She straightens his jumper for him and nods approvingly when he holds his chin for the photos just as she has taught him.
Her control-freakery is something they both acknowledge.
‘Rather than admit I’m scared, I try to control everything around me. I can’t help myself. I want so much control that I lose control,’ she says.
She is a woman who openly voices her fear that they will be seen as bad parents because they are a footballer and a model, who hurls herself into her children’s school projects (‘I’ve made three Stonehenges now,’ she writes. ‘I got an A for the last one I made out of bourbon biscuits.’)
The extent of her insecurity is surprising, somehow.
She has had treatment in the past for anxiety, and admits today that she’s a ‘bit of a wuss’ about travelling on her own, being on her own, getting a taxi, meeting new people.
She frets, in the book, about how she could have done better on Strictly — the contest she won. And despite being off-the-scale beautiful, too, Pete tells me ‘she’s always got a problem with the way she looks’.
Abbey admits that rather than admit she’s scared, she tries to control everything around her, while Peter is much more laid-back
As for Pete, he is so laid-back, so loved, that he both softens her hard edges, and acts as a human shield. ‘Everybody loves Pete,’ she says. ‘People feel they know him and can approach him in a way that they wouldn’t with, say, Tom Cruise.’
Back in the day, though, other women weren’t just approaching Pete, a famously gangly 6ft 7in, but positively chucking themselves at him.
It’s the stuff of legend that when an interviewer asked what he would be, were he not a footballer, he replied: ‘A virgin.’
He says he could spot them with ease. ‘It was obvious. I was usually with my mates from school. If we went to a nightclub, I’d get more attention than them, but it was so superficial.
‘I used to be very jealous. Now I say ‘have him’ she jokes
‘You can see through it a mile off if you’ve got a brain in your head. Why are they not interested in my mates? Just because you kick a ball around.’
Abbey hated it. ‘I was very jealous. You are quite territorial when you are young. Now I say ‘Have him!’ she jokes.
‘Very jealous when you were young? Very jealous full stop,’ says Pete.
How long did that jealousy last? He guffaws. ‘How long did it last? When is it going to end, you meant to say.’
She shoots him a look. ‘Shut up, you. This is a flippin’ interview.’
They clearly adore each other, though. I ask if Abbey agrees that Pete (bright, articulate, self-aware) isn’t like other footballers.
‘He isn’t like other humans, full stop,’ she says. Pete puts it even more simply: ‘She’s carried me my whole life.’
What of the Wag scene the young Abbey was catapulted into? There is a telling section in the book where she describes Pete asking her to join him — and the other players and Wags — in Germany for the 2006 World Cup.
They had only been seeing each other for a matter of months, and she recalls she had been given an unflattering haircut for Britain’s Next Top Model.
Abbey and Peter’s book is heavy on the narrative that Abbey regarded the hapless Peter Crouch — genius goal scorer, but not a man who knew his Gucci from his Gap — as a project
She had also put on weight during the filming. ‘I took one look at my short hair, moon face and fat bum, and told him I couldn’t go,’ she writes.
‘Victoria Beckham was going to be there! Coleen! Cheryl! WAG culture was at its peak, and I had six weeks’ worth of dirty laundry in a suitcase in the hall and no cash to go and buy swanky designer clothes. Talk about self-conscious.’
When I ask about this, however, she seems to panic. ‘Sometimes I think ‘f***ing hell, did I really say that?’ but that is Scouse humour, self-deprecating and brash.’
She agrees that being thrust into the limelight at 19 was a horror.
‘I was an ordinary girl from an ordinary street, and I came into it when Wag culture was at its peak. It was intimidating because you don’t have the money for the designer clothes.
‘And at 18/19 you think you are an adult, but you are a just a child.’
Today she talks of the press intrusion she and other Wags suffered. ‘One of the girls was a pop star,’ she says. ‘The negative things they said about her looks and where she was from… it nearly killed her mentally.
‘I don’t think they realise these are real people. Quite a lot of the women were like that. The Wag thing? I was just a young girl in love.’
This must have been uncomfortable for Pete, too.
‘Yeah, I did feel bad about it. As a player, you have to have a thick skin and not worry about what people are saying about you.
‘You put yourself there, to be shot at, but I didn’t want people around me to be shot at.’
Perhaps very wisely, they are no longer part of the Wag scene. Victoria, Cheryl et al don’t seem to pop round for tea.
‘Obviously we know people who are in the public eye, but our close friends, the nucleus, are our family and friends who have been there from day one,’ says Pete.
Abbey and Peter are no longer part of the Wag scene, preferring to spend time with close friends who they’ve known for a long time
None of them listen to their podcast. ‘They say they don’t need to — they hear us all the time!’
Long may they bicker. Long may Abbey try to make their lives even more perfect. For Christmas, she has told Pete she would like a miniature donkey.
‘I have a fantasy that I’ll come home and he’ll have had a stable built.’ His face suggests he has different fantasies.
‘Not happening, babe.’ But ten minutes later he concedes ‘What Abbey wants, she gets’, so I’d put money on a little donkey arriving some time soon.
- The Therapy Crouch by Abbey Clancy and Peter Crouch (Ebury, £22) is published on October 12. To order a copy for £19.80 (offer valid to 12/10/2023; UK P&P free on orders over £25) go to www.mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937.
Source of data and images: dailymail