Scott Parker is in the form of his life. Playing a key role this season in Tottenham Hotspur’s title challenge, the midfield general is widely suggested to be a favourite in another more individual race: for the England team captaincy.
Since joining Spurs in August 2011, the player has not looked back. Part of a team that includes the attacking talent of Welsh winger Gareth Bale, Togo target man Emmanuel Adebayor and fellow England internationals Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon, Parker’s job is to consistently provide a screen for the defence and to allow the forward players to attack—something that he does excellently.
Parker’s job seems to be simple—but it’s really far more valuable and complex than it looks to be at face value. In a game where fans want to be on the edges of their seats watching dynamic wing play and cutting-edge passing, a defensive stalwart like Parker could be overlooked. It’s a real testament to his ability that the man is now a star in his own right through carefully shielding the defence, breaking down opposing attacking plays and keeping his passing easy and smooth.
It is for his consistency and mature talent that the 31-year-old was rewarded with last season’s Football Writer’s Association Player of the Year award. Parker, at the time, had been captain ofWest Ham United, who had eventually conceded their place in the Premier League after a season of struggle. The award was a testament to the personal skill and attitude of a captain that led from the front and almost single-handedly saved his sinking team from relegation.
The popular midfielder has been recognised as an established player for far longer than that, however. Parker made his debut in 1997 at Charlton Athletic as a 16-year-old prodigy, and he has, since then, had faith placed in him from almost all of his managers.
After 145 games for Charlton, and having been capped by England, the years following 2003 saw him join Chelsea for a prolonged time of being on the fringe of Roman Abramovich’s revolution. He then spent a couple of years at Newcastle United from 2005, captaining the St James' Park team for a time as a once again established first-team player, before he moved back to London to play for West Ham in 2007.
Throughout his career, Parker has been capped only 10 times by England—a measly total compared to other established England players, such as Steven Gerrard (with 89) for example. This fact is something that may count against him in the minds of some commentators. I’d say, however, that the stat should not be important in deciding the next permanent England captain.
What is vital now is to appoint a player to the role who will act as a respectable and inspirational leader. Following the racism scandal with John Terry (not to mention countless other accusations that we’ve heard before with the ex-captain and other senior England players) the FA and the new manager of the team, whether he is current Spurs manager Harry Redknapp or not, will be keen to have a committed captain appointed for the Euro 2012 championships and beyond.
Parker offers, besides brilliant talent, a clean-cut image (something key when regarding the shame of some other England "stars"), almost universal esteem and a seemingly high standing amongst his colleagues. He has also recently proved himself at international level, winning the man-of-the-match laurels for his performance in England’s 1-0 win over world champions Spain last November.
If you were to watch the player closely in a Tottenham game, you would see him constantly providing support to his teammates—whether he is encouraging them after poor lapses of concentration or congratulating them after scoring. He isn’t the official captain at Spurs, but he is clearly a leader.
He also seems like a blast from the past: a Premier League footballer who wears plain-looking black boots and insists on tucking his shirt into his shorts and looking trim. It’s not that much of a crucial point, but it is evidence of his professionalism and no-frills persona—something that so many modern prima donna players could learn from.
Already tipped for the Spurs Player of the Season award in late February, after winning four out of five of the team’s Player of the Month awards so far, Parker has in a matter of months endeared himself completely to everyone associated with the club. The all-action, tough-tackling midfielder has already become on the first names on Harry Redknapp's teamsheet.
And, although he is now 31, he is showing no signs of slowing down and worsening as a player; his stable role, relying on stamina and strength and not pace, and his reliable talent and personality, mean that he will surely be as effective in a few years as he is now—something that will appeal and that England will acknowledge.
Former England manager Terry Venables said in a recent column, "There is no reason why [Parker] should not be first leading England out of the dressing room,"—a thought that I’m happily echoing. There seems to be no more sensible option for an outstanding captain than Parker.
The England team needs now to be looking to the future and a fresh admirable status as the national squad of a proud country. In the past there have been so many mishaps, and so many letdowns, but appointing Parker as captain would surely be a great move in the right direction.
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