Scott Parker: Honoring an underrated Tottenham star

HULL, ENGLAND - MAY 21: Mauricio Pochettino, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur reacts during the Premier League match between Hull City and Tottenham Hotspur at the KC Stadium on May 21, 2017 in Hull, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
HULL, ENGLAND - MAY 21: Mauricio Pochettino, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur reacts during the Premier League match between Hull City and Tottenham Hotspur at the KC Stadium on May 21, 2017 in Hull, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images) /

Midfielder Scott Parker was often overshadowed by bigger stars during his Tottenham tenure, but his return to Spurs should be welcomed by all.

Scott Parker was never the type of midfielder who generated highlight-reel videos or who would be featured on the cover of an edition of FIFA. Throughout his brief tenure with Tottenham Hotspur, one that lasted only two seasons, Parker was overshadowed by stars and names such as Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric even though his on-the-ball abilities were often the subjects of songs belted out by the Spurs faithful.

With all of that said, it’s easy to understand why Tottenham were keen on bringing the now-retired Parker back to the club as Under-18s coach and also an ambassador. Parker, in his prime and at his best, was exactly what manager Mauricio Pochettino would want from somebody tasked with playing the former English international’s position. Parker may not have been flashy, but he was always up for it and willing to get down and dirty when asked to take on such a role.

It’s somewhat humorous, years after the fact, to remember Parker’s introduction at White Hart Lane was not fully embraced by pockets of supporters who saw him as another “bargain buy” made by chairman Daniel Levy and a last-minute acquisition who, in the eyes of some, was a middle-of-the-road Premier League player who wouldn’t thrive playing under manager Harry Redknapp at a time when Tottenham were attempting to establish themselves as Champions League mainstays.

Truth be told, news Spurs had bought Walker was overshadowed on the final day of August 2011 once it was learned the club had failed to land defender Gary Cahill in the waning hours of the transfer window. Cahill, Redknapp’s “big” target of that summer, remained at Bolton up through the fall months until he completed a transfer to Chelsea in January 2012. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

Parker, meanwhile, quickly established himself as a vital part of the Tottenham starting XI and a wall that separated a free-flowing dynamic attack from a back line that often presented nervous moments for veteran goalkeeper Brad Friedel. Of course Parker could be relied upon to make a necessary tackle or play a pass from the back to kickstart a counterattack, but his presence on the pitch was about more than anything that showed up on a stat sheet.

In Parker, Redknapp found a reliable holding midfielder who could slow a match when the occasion called for it and who also didn’t mind handing the glory off to attackers playing in front of him. As cliche as it may be to say, Parker was a quintessential team-first man who wasn’t shy about getting in the faces of opponents or taking an attacker on even if doing so meant going into the book.

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By the time February 2012 rolled around, Parker had earned the captain’s armband for England ahead of a friendly versus the Netherlands. In only half a year, Parker had completed the transition from a roll-of-the-eyes transfer to an on-the-pitch general respected and adored by those who played alongside him and by individuals who cheered for club and country.

Immediately after Tottenham finished the campaign behind only three sides in the league table, one could not have been blamed for assuming Parker would captain Spurs in at least a handful of future Champions League fixtures.

Football, like life, is often cruel. Chelsea defeated Bayern Munich via penalties to win that year’s Champions League title and, in turn, relegate Tottenham to the Europa League. Redknapp was subsequently sacked, Parker picked up an Achilles injury while on international duties during the summer, and new Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas moved on to different pairings and a system that didn’t suit Parker even before the midfielder made a return to full fitness.

Parker’s Tottenham fall occurred as quickly as his rise, but one cannot help but wonder what could have been. Would Redknapp have been given another season as manager had Chelsea lost their final game of the 2011-12 campaign? What if Parker never required surgery following Euro 2012? It’s these type of questions that routinely haunt Spurs supporters regardless of who is in the midfield and who is leading the charge during any given campaign.

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Things, sometimes, come full circle. Pochettino likely would’ve enjoyed working with a younger Parker ahead of and during battles with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal, and the boss will now hope the former Tottenham player can help produce even a handful of similar products for a club with a recent history of promoting from within.