December 13 2013 Latest news:
By Ben Pearce, Tottenham correspondent
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Spurs correspondent Ben Pearce looks back on Scott Parker’s time with Tottenham following his move to Fulham this week.
When Scott Parker arrived at Tottenham two years ago, few would have guessed that he would depart so quietly and with so few dissenting voices around White Hart Lane.
Having been such a well-publicised target for Harry Redknapp throughout the summer of 2011, and hailed as the missing piece of the puzzle, the midfielder immediately justified the hype.
Before his move, Spurs had lost their first two Premier League games of the season against the two Manchester clubs – with an aggregate score of 8-1 – but when he belatedly arrived the Lilywhites were immediately transformed.
With Parker and another new man, Emmanuel Adebayor, in their ranks Tottenham went on to take 31 points from a possible 33 and shoot up the table into third place.
Parker was instrumental in that magnificent run and he was voted Spurs’ player of the month for September and October before being named the Premier League player of the month for November, with Redknapp picking up the manager’s gong.
The England man went on to play 34 games for Spurs that season as the north Londoners reached the FA Cup semi-finals and finished fourth – although a quirk in the rules meant that was not to be enough for a place in the Champions League.
Parker was rewarded for his importance with a nomination for the PFA Player of the Year award – and he won Spurs’ own player of the year prize as well.
However, the workload took its toll and he missed the climax of the campaign with a sore Achilles, which threatened to rule him out of Euro 2012.
“I can’t lie, I was extremely concerned I was going to miss out,” he said last summer. It was the first time Parker had ever been selected in the England squad for a major tournament. And, having captained the national team earlier in the year in a friendly against Holland, he added: “I will be 33 when the World Cup comes around and this may be my first and only chance of winning something with England.”
Determined to seize that opportunity, Parker started all four of the Three Lions’ matches at the European Championship – and he spent the next six months in the treatment room.
In an ideal world, Andre Villas-Boas would have reintroduced Parker gently, and it is likely that he would have spent most of his time on the bench as a back-up for the in-form Sandro.
However, the Brazilian suffered a knee injury at QPR just as Parker was returning and, with Villas-Boas having little faith in his other middle men, he threw the England player straight into the fray.
The 32-year-old went on to start 22 of Spurs’ last 23 games in all competitions, but he was a shadow of his former self.
While the determination and grit were still there, Parker was poor on the ball, constantly conceding possession. Meanwhile, when he opted to put his foot on the ball and survey his options, fans bemoaned his trademark 360-degree pirouettes, which slowed the play and allowed the opposition to set themselves.
In his defence, Spurs’ 4-4-1-1 system did him few favours. Had he been operating in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Parker might have been able to concentrate on his defensive duties, guard the back four and play to his strengths.
Instead, he found himself as one of only two central players, forcing him out of his comfort zone and putting pressure on him to offer a creative influence.
That only highlighted his limitations, which were particularly evident when he was partnered with the similarly restricted Jake Livermore in a nightmarish week in March.
With Aaron Lennon injured, the influential Mousa Dembele was moved to the right flank and Parker and Livermore were asked to provide the full spectrum of creativity and steel in the centre.
It was beyond them and Liverpool triumphed 3-2 at Anfield, while Inter Milan won 4-1 in Italy after extra-time – but went out on aggregate.
Dembele was returned to the centre for the following game against Fulham but, having played 120 minutes on the Thursday night, Parker was included again in the starting line-up less than three days later – and he played the full game once more as a fatigued Spurs side suffered a damaging 1-0 home defeat.
That was by no means his fault and, if anything, it just underlined the lack of strength in depth in Tottenham’s midfield.
That issue has now been solved and, in Dembele, Sandro, Paulinho and Etienne Capoue, Spurs have a formidable quartet.
Crucially, all four offer something with and without the ball. Paulinho has a good goalscoring record and, although Capoue has only appeared in a Spurs shirt for half an hour, his muscular charge down the left flank at Selhurst Park on Sunday suggests that he is comfortable and confident in opposition territory.
That has left no room for Parker, who provided an upgrade on Wilson Palacios in 2011 but gradually became a similar player for Spurs – a committed ball-winner who does not offer enough in other areas of the game – and he in turn has been upgraded by newer, more complete models.
Ultimately, it is worth reflecting on Redknapp’s praise for Parker when the former Spurs boss finally captured his number one transfer target two years ago.
“Scott is combative, relentless, professional, modest and unbendingly committed,” said the manager. “That’s why he was voted the Football Writers’ Player of the Year and why he is popular with most supporters of most clubs.
“Scott is as versatile as any midfielder England have. He’s not just a holding player. He can attack, score goals and play on either side of a diamond.”
The first half is still true, and Tottenham fans will be united in wishing Parker every success with their London rivals Fulham.
However, the second half of that eulogy sounds less accurate these days and Tottenham have rightly replaced him with players who can take the team forward - literally.
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