Scott Parker is an early contender for player of the season
There cannot be a single player in the Premier League who has singlehandedly saved a side from ignominy to the extent that Parker has the Hammers. Avram Grant’s team have been bad but without their inspirational captain they would have been much, much worse.
This discrepancy between Parker’s commitment and that of some of his team mates was perfectly highlighted by Alan Hansen in the Match of the Day studio after a recent game against Blackburn Rovers. The indomitable Parker was shown flying fearlessly into challenges, dusting himself off and getting on with the game. This was contrasted with the pusillanimous attitude of Tel Ben Haim who spent the best part of a minute on the ground feigning injury while West Ham were under serious pressure from their opponents. The Israeli international was even caught on camera glancing up from his death bed to check whether anyone had noticed, proving a point to the referee clearly taking precedence over doing a defensive job for his team.
Parker’s career has taken an unusual trajectory. He sprung to prominence at Charlton Athletic prompting Chelsea to spend £10 million on him midway through the 2004/05 campaign. Despite making only sporadic appearances he still went on to win the PFA young player of the season award that year. His first team opportunities at Stamford Bridge were limited and he was allowed to leave at the end of his first full campaign at the club.
Newcastle United probably thought they had got themselves a bargain when they snapped Parker up for £6.5 million. He made an encouraging start to life at St James’s Park and might well have made the 2006 England World Cup squad had he not contracted glandular fever towards the end of the season.
Manager Glenn Roeder was sufficiently impressed to hand him the captain’s armband but Parker never really won over the Newcastle United fans and soon after Sam Allardyce’s 2007 appointment he was sold in order to accommodate the arrival of Joey Barton.
Erstwhile Charlton Athletic manager Alan Curbishley, who had been very critical of the manner in which Parker engineered his move away from the club, was now in charge of West Ham. Despite having well publicized previous differences with the player he still saw fit to spend £7 million bringing him back to London, supposedly seeing off late interest from Tottenham.
Parker’s first season at Upton Park was interrupted by injury but since finding his fitness he has been a revelation. He was awarded the captaincy, has been named the supporter’s player of the year for each of the last two seasons and is almost certain to receive a similar accolade at the end of the current campaign.
With relegation a very real possibility the vultures are already hovering over the West Ham squad and Parker is undoubtedly the most marketable asset. This time last year Manchester City made a concerted effort to sign him and Tottenham had a bid turned down in pre season. Such is Parker’s influence that selling him at this stage of the season would be a form of capitulation the club are unlikely to countenance, no matter how lucratrive the offer.
The 30 year old has never been a prolific goalscorer and as his career has progressed he has been employed in an increasingly defensive midfield role. His tough tackling, combative style makes him an ideal anchor man but Parker is much more than a mere enforcer and this season he has even added goals to his game. This six that he has scored so far represent a record return for the player himself and a significant contribution to the team’s modest tally.
As the rules evolve to adjust to the increasing pace of the modern game contact between players is becoming more restricted and regulated. Parker is a throwback to a bygone era when full blooded challenges was embraced rather than vilified. He might pick up more than his fair share of bookings but seldom gets sent off which, in the current officiating climate, suggests that he rarely gets it wrong when it comes to timing a tackle.
Parker consistently puts in the sort of performances which, were he playing for a better team, would probably prove matchwinning. Despite his best efforts West Ham have consistently finished on the losing side but Parker’s contribution to the cause has not escaped the attention of the fans who frequently berate the team with the refrain that, ‘there’s only one player trying’.
It is rare that players lurking in the lower echelons of the Premier League receive any sort of recognition but if Parker can continue with his current form he must be a contender when the player of year awards are given out, regardless of whether West Ham are still in the relegation zone.
Picture: Getty ImagesTagged in: Avram Grant, football, Scott Parker, West Ham
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