4 Reasons Why Scott Parker Should Replace John Terry as England Captain
English football has a long tradition of making things difficult for it's national side ahead of a major tournaments, and this year they're ahead of schedule in the run up to this summer's European Championships.
As England went about securing qualification for the tournament in their final qualifier away in Montenegro, Wayne Rooney decided to remove himself from contention in the group stage by kicking at Miodrag Dzudovic and getting sent off.
Then, of course, whether fairly or not, captain John Terry became embroiled in scandal amidst allegations that he racially abused Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during Chelsea's 1-0 defeat earlier this season. The court case has been postponed until after Euro 2012, but in footballing terms, the situation came to a head Friday morning with the news that the Football Association has stripped Terry of his England captaincy.
With England manager Fabio Capello now required to pick someone else to lead his side on the pitch this summer, speculation will duly begin over who that replacement should be.
While two experienced campaigners who have at one time or another worn the captain's armband will immediately come to mind, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, the ideal candidate may be neither.
Instead, step up Mr. Scott Parker.
Here are four reasons why the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder should be the next England captain.
Parker Is Now an Integral Part of England's Team
In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that this writer hasn't always been the greatest admirer of Scott Parker the footballer.
The decision by England's Football Writers Association to award him their player of the year award for 2010/11 seemed baffling when you consider that many similar, hard-grafting, galvanising players had gone unrewarded over the years—many of whom were on teams that didn't end up getting relegated!
What cannot be disputed though, is how Parker has honed his particular skill-set to become a near undroppable part of any team he plays for. This was exemplified perfectly by his performance against Spain in last November's 1-0 win.
What you can interpret from international friendlies should be taken with a pinch of salt. Even so, anytime you are able to stifle a midfield that at one point or another during the match consisted of Xavi Hernadez, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Juan Mata or Cesc Fabregas, you could rightly be proud of your performance.
Parker was more than just an annoyance snapping at the heels of the Spaniards; he was close to being an immovable obstruction. If he wasn't winning tackles or making an interception, he was part of a superb English effort to deny them space, shadowing them into blind alleys where the only option was a u-turn.
Though he does not pose the attacking threat of a Gerrard or a Lampard, or the smart passing of Jack Wilshere, Parker is comfortable enough on the ball to be an adept international performer. On a few occasions against Spain, he could be seen buying his team time by driving the ball into the opposition's half. It may not have led to an attack, but it was vital in giving England breathing space ahead of the next attempted onslaught.
How Capello's midfield will line up come Euro 2012 is uncertain, however Parker has shown why he is a must in England's line-up. This is all to say that, though he may not have won as many caps as other players, few of his team-mates are as integral (and therefore as likely to play) as Parker now is.
Parker's Leadership Qualities
The captain is the leader of a team. Ideally, he is someone who can both motivate and be the on-field conductor (or interpreter) of a manager's game-plan. This is to say that deciding who wears a captain's armband is a decision not to be taken lightly.
If there is an over-emphasis in English football on its value, that is only because it has often been defined by certain images: World Cup winning skipper Bobby Moore, coolness personified in the face of pressure; David Beckham's one-man salvaging act against Greece in 2002; perhaps most famously, Terry Butcher, bloodied and bandaged during a World Cup qualifier versus Sweden in 1989.
The qualities that personify these examples—calmness, determination and bravery—could be argued were representative in all three of the aforementioned players, at least for a certain time. In the process of maturing into the player he is now, Parker has demonstrated these in abundance.
Since joining Tottenham, he has added a focus that was at times lacking in the side. While Spurs (as does England) have people who can organise and encourage in defence, beyond that there was the impression prior to Parker's arrival that the rest of the side was lacking in these areas. That is an element that has been instilled into his latest club, and they are far less likely now to look like giving up when their backs are against the wall.
This was the case when Tottenham went 2-0 down away at Manchester City last month. Parker hadn't enjoyed the best of first-halves, but even before his side had conceded, the midfielder had been urging his team on and leading by example with a marked improvement in his own game.
That day too, he demonstrated his bravery and commitment to the cause. After luckily escaping serious injury after being stamped on the head by (the reprehensible) Mario Balotelli, Parker did not choose it as an excuse to call it a day. Instead, he got his treatment, got back on and went about doing his job.
Such level of commitment was in evidence too on a day that is destined to go into the folklore of his career. Last February, his then-club West Ham United trailed West Bromwich Albion at half-time 3-0, at which point Parker decided it was not the time to remain quiet.
"Scott showed a lot of passion in the changing room and it spurred us on", said Hammers striker Carlton Cole at the time. "It was inspirational and if you were in there, you would have had a tear in your eye".
West Ham went on to earn a 3-3 draw that afternoon. These qualities may not be unique to Parker among his potential teammates at Euro 2012, but there are other reasons why he stands out as a potential captain.
Parker Is Representative of England's Need for Progress
Despite being the same age as Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole, a few months older than Gareth Barry, and just a couple of years younger than Frank Lampard, Parker has only recently cemented his place in the England set-up.
The 31-year-old's haul of ten caps on paper may mark him out as inexperienced in comparison with the veterans of the England squad, but his freshness to the scene is one of the reasons that he is so appealing.
Parker is not carrying the same baggage as these players, and not only in the form of tournament failures. He has been exempt from the existing controversy of accommodation that has so plagued the international careers of Lampard and Gerrard, as well as the public dislike of Cole, or even as part of so many previous complicated decisions over the captaincy.
Instead, Parker is representative of a new group of players that have not been burdened by these stresses and the accusations of favouritism that have plagued team-selections made in the face of form and reason.
All of the players mentioned will most certainly be part of the Euro 2012 squad and are likely to play some part. If anything, playing without the burden of official leadership will at least remove a little pressure, something the players have evidently suffered from for so long.
But what a change in captaincy offers is an opportunity to move on from the past without abandoning it entirely: a chance to offer a new perspective in this area that might freshen up a previously stale England camp.
Parker Is a Great Role-Model
We have spoken already at length about the essence of Parker on the pitch, about his ability as a player and as a leader. But it is his off-field conduct that makes him such a desirable candidate for the captaincy, and what that entails in being the face of English football.
Not only is Parker a break from the past disappointments of the team in tournament football, but also the failure of so many players in representing England as role models.
This is not intended as a moral lecture, and indeed, just how much responsibility footballers should have as role models is up for debate. What is indisputable however, is the negative impact that off-field transgressions of England internationals have had on the team.
At one point or another in their careers Gerrard, Lampard, Cole, Rio Ferdinand, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney (oh and a manger too, Mr. Eriksson this means you!) have all had trouble with the law, or been embroiled with scandal or tabloid gossip. Not all situations may have had a direct impact on the England team, but even those which didn't went some way to damaging its reputation and creating unnecessary stresses.
Parker has generally kept to himself and focused on his football. Now more than ever, this should be one of the mandatory qualities of an England captain.