Resembling an old grainy photograph of a World War Two soldier – you know, with that swept side parting and stern, proud expression; very smart, I endorse it entirely –Scott Parker deservedly forced his way into Fabio Capello’s provisional 30-man squad, but should he be taking those nostalgic aesthetics to South Africa?
With the final 23-man squad imminent, let’s have a look at Private Parker’s chances.
If form is, indeed, a key criterion for Capello, Parker deserves his chance. His performances for West Ham this season proved vital in securing Premier League football, seeing him named ‘Hammer of the Year’. Indeed, West Ham fans will know better than most the qualities Parker possesses – qualities invariably displayed on Match of the Day as the glittering gleam among the gloom, with some little quip underneath (‘Sensational Scott’, or something equally ‘shred my wrists with a cheese-grater’ irritating).
So, ‘Sensational Scott’, yep get grating those wrists, has demonstrated the sort of consistency apparently crucial for a World Cup place. His chief attributes are largely recognized and distinguished; a combative midfielder, strong in the tackle, adapt at breaking up play, with a prodigious engine and graft. What makes him an even more awkward proposition for opponents, and precious to his side, is that he is also possesses acute distribution, is extremely comfortable on the ball – rarely loosing possession – and has a knack for elegantly turning out and away from incoming traffic, whilst protecting the ball.
So, pretty much a reliable and practical all rounder. Would he fit in the England side?
He would certainly be unlikely to start, especially with competition from the likes of Lampard, Gerrard, Barry and, to a lesser extent, Huddlestone, Milner (likely to be deployed in a wider role) and Carrick; many of whom currently seem to be ahead of him in the pecking order. Moreover, Parker currently only has three England caps, and none under Fabio Capello. Hence, given this lack of international experience, his chances appear slender and would probably require an outstanding performance against Japan on Sunday – if he even gets the opportunity – to find himself part of the South Africa bound clan. He is also not particularly potent going forward and some might suggest he does a similar job to those ahead of him, but nothing beyond and above.
Despite all this, personally I would welcome his inclusion in the final 23-man squad. All the previously mentioned attributes, coupled with a dogged discipline, mean he could certainly cope. If not dazzling going forward, he is still comfortable and this would not really be his primary purpose anyway. Of those he is realistically competing with – Barry, Huddlestone and Carrick – he appears deserving of a place. Barry seems to be the first-choice, but with his fitness in doubt surely a fully-fit and in-form Parker is an option. Although a good player, Carrick’s performances this season have been average at best and so I would certainly have Parker ahead of him. Huddlestone or Parker is a tricky one, but at 29 years old Parker is a dependable performer at the zenith of his career; the sort of player historically required to get on with the job and make the team tick.
If necessary, Parker could very effectively sit in the heart of midfield; perhaps even in a 4, 5, 1 formation with Rooney holding the line – as he has done exceptionally for much of the season at Old Trafford – thus offering the perfect foil to enable the likes of Lampard and Gerrard to push on in support. This is only one option, depending on circumstance, but Parker’s all round aptitude clearly spawns flexibility.
Unfortunately, I don’t feel remarkably confident he will make the cut – the odds seemed stacked against him – but would reserve a seat for Scott Parker?
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