A look at the highly successful career of Fulham’s Scott Parker
OLD school. There’s really no other way to describe Scott Parker. The black polished boots, the hitched up shorts, the brylcreemed ’50s hairdo. And, above all, the raw, simple honesty that runs like marrow through every performance.
“Just a wonderful person to have in your dressing room,” said Harry Redknapp, Parker’s manager at Tottenham. “He’s a talker, a winner, a leader. There used to be three or four like him at every club. They just don’t breed them like Scott any more.”
To many, Parker will always be the kid from the McDonald’s commercial, playing keepy-ups and sporting an outrageous blonde basin cut.
“We used to joke with him ‘How many takes did it take to actually do the keep-ups?’” said Mick Jenn, Parker’s U12s manager at south London side Valley V ali ants .“Because Scott was very uncoordinated in training. But put him on a football pitch and he was just a dynamo.”
Never was that trait better illustrated than by the moment that truly epitomises Parker, 20 years later at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk.
As one of the direst England teams in living memory desperately clung to a 1-1 draw with France in the opening game of Euro 2012, Parker was the only player in his element; blocking shots, making tackles, flinging his ailing body at every single challenge.
By 70 minutes, he was shot, Jordan Henderson stripped and ready. “I’m OK!” he shouted to the bench, repeating it five times for good measure. Five minutes later, Parker was finally dragged off against his will, his body on the brink of collapse.
Diligent, destructive, death for the cause; so it has always been for Parker, a player who seizes the brushes of artists and snaps them over a calloused knee. Yet it wasn’t always that way.
“As a youngster, Scott saw himself as an attacking midfielder,” recalls Alan Curbishley, who signed the teenaged Parker for Charlton and managed him for almost a decade .“Unfortunately, I couldn’t get him into the team that way.
“I told him that if he changed and became a defensive midfielder, he would get a chance. That was it. He just said OK – and that’s exactly what he went and did.
“A few months later, Mark Kinsella was injured, Scott played the role at Manchester City and we won 4-1. After that, he never looked back.”
Few people know Parker as well as Curbishley. When the midfielder won the Football Writers’ Player of the Year award in 2011 – despite being relegated with West Ham – the ex-Addicks boss took to the stage to deliver a glowing eulogy.
Describing Parker as “like a son”, he recalled the moment he knew the youngster would succeed, a full-blooded challenge that left a veteran Paul Ince on his backside. For Curbishley, Parker’s greatest asset was an inherent selflessness. “If you ask him to do a job on the pitch, he will go out and do exactly what you have asked him to do,” he said.“It is the dream quality any coach could wish for.”
Not to mention one that prompted newly-minted Chelsea to shell out £10m in January 2004, a transfer that sparked a brief falling out with Curbishley.
Stuck behind the likes of Frank Lampard and arch-destroyer Claude Makelele, the then 23-yearold never got going at the Bridge but moves to Newcastle, West Ham and Spurs swiftly re-established Parker as one of the division’s most consistent performers.
“For me, in his position, he is one of the best in the Premier League,” said Hammers boss Zola in 2008. “He is very good at organising the action but he also helps the defence a lot. “It’s the combination of the two that makes him one of the best. He is also an inspirational person.”
Parker’s public demeanour contrasts sharply with his playing style. Shy and softly spoken, it is hard to imagine the passionate captain described by Hammers striker Carlton Cole.
“We were 3-0 down to West Brom at half-time and we’d been diabolical,” he said. “Then Scott stood up and he was inspirational. He told us not to disappoint ourselves, the manager, our families and the fans. If you were there you would have had a tear in your eye.” It finished 3-3.
It was also Parker who, following a move to Fulham in 2013, braved the wrath of hard-line gaffer Felix Magath by airing the players’ grievances. Recently, Harry Arter – the Bournemouth midfielder and Parker’s brotherin-law – recalled how Parker had helped him through the pain of being released by Charlton as a young man.
It was this combination of discipline and decency that brought Parker’s crowning moment when he was named captain of England by interim boss Stuart Pearce in 2012. He would go on to win 18 caps – a scandalously scant amount according to Curbishley.
“He was quick over the ground, he made tackles, he won the ball,” said the 58-year-old. “We were crying out for somebody in the England set-up to do that when Lampard and Gerrard were there.
“Scotty would have been the ideal foil for them and I can’t understand why he wasn’t used more. Makelele used to get all the plaudits at Chelsea, De Jong at Man City. But for me, Scott was up there with all of them.”
MY SHOUT: Scott Parker is still going strong in the Fulham midfield
AT THE BLUES: Parker in Chelsea colours