PRO­FILE

A look at the highly suc­cess­ful ca­reer of Ful­ham’s Scott Parker

The Football League Paper - - NEWS -

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

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.”

Self­less

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.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

MY SHOUT: Scott Parker is still go­ing strong in the Ful­ham mid­field

AT THE BLUES: Parker in Chelsea colours

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