It’s been 47 years since a West Ham United player was named Footballer of the Year. And never in the award’s history has a player won it with a club staring relegation in the face. So Scott Parker’s achievement is a towering one – well deserved and extremely hard earned.
Voters in the Footballer Writers’ Association or in the PFA Player of the Year will always look at clubs doing well in the league or cups before they even consider a player from a struggling club. So Parker is perhaps the most remarkable Footballer of the Year of all time. My great friend Bobby Moore was the only previous Hammer to win it, back in 1964. Those knights of the realm Sir Geoff Hurst and Sir Trevor Brooking never won it, neither did Martin Peters nor Billy Bonds – a player so influential he could have won it almost any year of his career.
But more impressive than that is Parker has shone so brightly in what has been such a wretched spell for his club. Back in my day – before players had proper freedom of movement – it was far more likely that an outstanding player would be with a club playing at the wrong end of the table. Tom Finney was Footballer of the Year at Preston in 1957, but even an all-time great like Johnny Haynes never received the gong, possibly because he was usually fighting relegation with Fulham. I never won the Footballer of the Year award myself and, as a result, have always been convinced that the Great British Press have no taste whatsoever!
But I have to say that they have come up with a better recipient for their award than the players this year – but because they vote later than the PFA, they often do. Gareth Bale won the players’ award on the back of an excellent first half of the campaign, but the Spurs winger has suffered with injury and a dip in form of late. Parker has been a true captain in a season when West Ham have sorely needed leadership and fully deserves his place in the England team. Particularly since Owen Hargreaves got injured, Parker is the player the Three Lions have been crying out for in midfield.
For his sake, you hope West Ham stay up this season, but if they go down, I hope there are no hard feelings when he does move on as he surely will. Some are bound to say that in days gone by, a top player would have stayed at a relegated club and helped them try to win back promotion. That’s true – but chiefly because players didn’t used to have a choice in the matter.
Parker will probably not have to move far. Harry Redknapp at Tottenham has seemed desperate to sign him for some time. In my playing days, we always believed the FWA award had a northern bias and, looking back at previous winners, there aren’t too many cockneys at London clubs who have won it before. Parker joins Clive Allen, Steve Perryman, Frank Lampard and dear old Mooro himself in that band of players. He’s in good company and I can’t think of anybody who deserves the accolade more.