‘Premier League Unsung Heroes’ – West Ham’s Scott Parker

400x400_ScottParkerNewSince his rise to public awareness appearing in the McDonald’s television advert juggling a football during the 1994 FIFA World Cup, Scott Parker has always had the potential to become an extremely good player. He graduated from the FA’s National School of Excellence and proceeded to break into the first team at Charlton Athletic. His slight build and lack of height may have held him back in his early years but once the young midfielder proved his abilities to then Charlton manager Alan Curbishley, there was no looking back. He was all round midfielder who could tackle, work hard, pass accurately and be an all round creative player who could pick holes in opposition defences.

Nothing it could seem could go wrong for this midfield dynamo; he was picked in the England squad for a friendly against Australia in February 2003 and his star was rising with many of the big clubs chasing his signature. He had energy and skill which typified the box-to-box midfielder and with Chelsea in the process of building a title-winning squad under Roman Abramovich, it was not long before the Russian’s check book was out for Parker. His time at Chelsea was however unfortunate, he started in the first team under Claudio Ranieri when he as signed for £10m in January 2004 but injuries plagued his first full season at Stamford Bridge and he played only 11 times during Jose Mourinho’s title winning first year. He was transferred to Newcastle after that season and during his time at the club he was given the captain’s armband and played in the England team against Croatia in Zagreb during Euro 2008 qualifying in October 2006. Subsequently he moved to his current club West Ham for £7million in the summer of 2007 under the management of old Charlton boss Alan Curbishley .

Things started off slowly at the London club as he again was hampered by injuries. He returned from a knee injury in September 2007 to make his debut in the League Cup against Plymouth Argyle but he was sidelined again when he was injured in his next match against Arsenal keeping him out for another two months. He was also out of action for almost three months after Christmas and the 2007/08 campaign could be seen as almost a complete write off for Parker. Last season and the current campaign have however been a completely different story. The old Scott Parker is back. He finished an impressive 2008/09 campaign by being voted Hammer of the Year by the club’s supporters finishing the season with 32 appearances in league and cup. His tackling and passing displays are now reminiscent of the young box –to-box midfielder he once was and he was rewarded with his stellar displays by being recalled to the England squad by head coach Fabio Capello for the friendly victory over Germany in November 2008. It was the first time in two years Parker had appeared in the squad.

His performances as a Hammer this season have not failed to impress either, since Gianfranco Zola took charge in early 2008, the Italian manager has seen Parker both fully fit and firing on all cylinders. He leads a midfield in which there are many young players such as Jack Collison and Junior Stanislas and is the central figure for West Ham in setting up attacks. His importance to the side is not lost on manager Zola:

For me, in his position, he is one of the best in the Premier League. As far as I’m concerned, he’s always been playing well for me, done a fantastic job for me and I’m trying to help him be even better. He shouldn’t stop thinking he can be an international because he is a good player and excellent as a person in the group. 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. It’s not my call, it’s Fabio Capello’s. Obviously the team for Capello has done very well, so it’s not going to be easy for Parker. What he has to do is keep playing the way he is playing and a door may open.

He certainly is an unsung hero according to his manager and he still has an outside shot of being on the plane to South Africa. If he continues in this current vein of form for the rest of the season, he will no doubt give Fabio Capello a few problems for squad selection.