Spurs face the Blues in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday with the England star, who suffered relegation with West Ham last year, set to play a pivotal role against his former club
By Greg Stobart | Northern Correspondent
On May 15 last year, Scott Parker was the last player off the pitch at the DW Stadium, pain in his legs and his eyes as he applauded the travelling West Ham supporters who had just seen their side relegated from the Premier League.
Nearly a year on, it’s all change for the Tottenham midfielder. In a month’s time, the Premier League season will be over, the FA Cup final will have been played and thoughts will start turning towards Euro 2012. Parker could find himself in the Champions League, an FA Cup winner and England captain.
On Sunday, the 31-year-old will start in central midfield for Spurs in the semi-final of the FA Cup against Chelsea at Wembley, where Parker has become a regular in the last 18 months since his return to the England fold.
In Chelsea, he will come up against some familiar opponents, not just in Three Lions team-mates John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole. The likes of Petr Cech and Didier Drogba were also at the club during Parker’s disappointing season at Stamford Bridge in the 2004-05 campaign.
| PARKER AT CHELSEA
|TIME AT CLUB
ENGLAND CAPS WON
| PARKER AT TOTTENHAM
|TIME AT CLUB
ENGLAND CAPS WON
It marked Parker out, somewhat unfairly, as something of a nomad and as a reliable player who could not quite cut it at the highest level. It was, say people close to the former Charlton man, a tag that stuck, costing him another big move earlier in his career and keeping him out of the England reckoning.
But as he comes to the tail-end of his career, few could say that Parker is not finally getting the recognition he deserves for his heart, workrate, tenacity and underrated skill on the ball.
He leads by example, the model professional. Alan Curbishley once described him as “the kind of player who will never need a super-injunction” while Redknapp believes he is “top class, a great person to have around any club”.
Considered by Fabio Capello as too timid to go to the World Cup in 2010, he is not a snarler or a big shouter, but he leads by example, leaving nothing on the pitch and battling in a manner that made him football writers’ Footballer of the Year last summer.
Sitting in the holding role, he has added stability to the England midfield and, following his £5 million switch from the Hammers last August, has had the same effect on Tottenham. Redknapp considers Parker the most important signing of his three-and-a-half years at White Hart Lane.
He is the kind of character and talent that has been missing from Chelsea this season, who have been defensively woeful for much of the campaign and projected a poisonous dressing room vibe, certainly before the dismissal of Andre Villas-Boas.
|LEAVING IT LATE
||Tottenham are 10/1 with William Hill to beat Chelsea in extra time in the FA Cup semi-final
Since then, Spurs have lost five heartbreaking semi-finals, including two to bitter rivals Arsenal and a most recent defeat in 2010 at the hands of a shocking Portsmouth side.
But they have never had a better chance than this year. Despite their poor form, they remain the highest placed team still in the FA Cup and, on paper at least, have the strongest squad.
What they need is to remember how to play the swashbuckling football they produced in the first two-thirds of the season, for much of which they were considered contenders for the Premier League title.
With his drive and desire, Parker is the man to guide Spurs to a first FA Cup final in 21 years, a date against Liverpool or Everton on May 5. It would be an apt way to confirm his amazing rise.
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