Roll back to the end of last season. West Ham had just been relegated and despite his superb displays that season, Scott Parker was facing a year in the Championship. His club’s reluctance to let him move on and the unwillingness of a top side to take a punt on the central midfielder meant Parker featured in the first four games after the Hammers’ relegation. However, Harry Redknapp and Spurs came calling and Parker walked out at Wembley on Wednesday night as the leader of his country.
It’s been a remarkable rise for the London-born lad, who started his career with Charlton, impressing all involved with the game under the reign of Alan Curbishley. It was then he made his England debut, replacing Wayne Rooney in a friendly against Denmark back in 2003. However, the next eight years were not exactly rewarding for Parker, he won just a further two caps and seemed destined to spend his career in the shadow of Gerrard and Lampard, despite every man and his dog realising England’s star duo were not compatible in the same team.
A move to Chelsea didn’t exactly pay off either, indeed Parker failed to live up to his £10 million transfer fee and became a minor figure in the Stamford Bridge revolution. After just 15 appearances, Parker was on his way, heading north to Newcastle United, where a run decent form saw him recalled to the England squad. West Ham decided that Scotty would fit the bill at Upton Park, bringing the player back to London for £7 million and Parker capture the imagination of the fans, becoming a firm favourite during his 110 appearances at the club. His final season proved his best, despite West Ham’s miserable form, as Parker produced the form of his life, winning the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year. The subsequent move to Spurs for a bargain £5 million followed and Parker has impressed everyone at White Hart Lane, establishing himself as a key cog in a side that looks Champions League bound. Certainly, there must be a few managers who wished they’d taken that punt last summer (mentioning no names Mr Wenger).
His return to the England side came on the back of public clamour, Parker was far and away the best English midfielder in the division last year and he was voted England’s best player in 2011 thanks to some sensational performances in the holding role that the Three Lions have never successfully filled. No-one saw the next chapter in Parker’s career coming though. As the John Terry saga rumbled on, Fabio Capello lost his job and England needed a new captain and a coach. Step forward Psycho. Despite being the temporary man in charge, Stuart Pearce decided to stamp his mark on the England setup, handing Parker the captaincy in a move reminiscent to Peter Taylor giving David Beckham the armband back in 2000 for his only game in charge against Italy. As it happens, that move turned out quite well.
Is it the right decision though? Parker is obviously England’s man in form and is guaranteed a starting position. His commitment to the cause can not be denied either; indeed Parker has shown more blood and thunder in his 11 caps than most of the rest of the squad put together. He made a couple of blocks on Wednesday night that showed a worrying disregard for his own health and as always, offered a robust display, breaking up attacks from his role in the middle. Parker offers a type of leadership that England fans love to see, the patriotic, warrior-like figure leading from the front. All he needs is a bandaged head with blood dripping from an open wound.
This is all fine, until you consider one name. Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool man must be wondering what he’s done wrong again, after suffering yet another snub for the armband. It’s remarkable to think he’s been overlooked again; indeed Gerrard was the only bright spark in England’s dismal World Cup showing, although his leadership was wasted on the other muppets in white. Stevie G has single-handedly inspired Liverpool victory on many occasions and was surely the obvious choice for skipper. Parker doesn’t even captain Spurs! Any talk of age is ridiculous, Parker is just five months younger than his midfield partner and is therefore just as likely to retire after the European Championships as has been rumoured with Gerrard. It’s a risky move by Pearce. By giving Parker the lead role, he has essentially undermined one ofEngland’s few world class talents. He may have been injured for the best part of two years and be knocking on the door of old age, but if England are to triumph this summer, Mr Gerrard will be a crucial part of everything they do. You just have to pray this doesn’t disrupt team harmony once again.