By George Ankers
Stoppage-time at Anfield with Liverpool bearing down, the momentum theirs, desperate to find the goal to deliver a crucial win... nobody should have been surprised to see Scott Parker make not one but three important clearances to help Tottenham see the game out for a 0-0 draw.
That flurry of interceptions capped off another typically robust and reliable performance for a man who has exuded stability all season and is now backed by many to bring calm to the troubled England camp.
He has had to take the long road to get here, but Parker looks unquestionably ready to achieve what was widely seen as his potential when he first broke into the Charlton team at the turn of the millennium.
A £10 million move straight to the Chelsea bench in 2004 turned out to be a massive mistake for the midfielder, his personal development and progress into the Three Lions setup brought to a halt as he stagnated at Stamford Bridge, but since then he has quietly worked his way to the top with typical determination.
Parker rehabilitated himself at Newcastle before a switch to West Ham where he really began to prove his all-around leadership capability.
Named the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year in 2010-11 despite his side being relegated to the Championship, the skipper often seemed to be single-handedly keeping the Hammers in with a chance of staying up, even being hailed by his team-mates for an inspirational half-time team-talk that precipitated a recovery from a 3-0 deficit to salvage a point against West Bromwich Albion.
His reputation at its peak, the Lambeth-born midfielder joined Tottenham in the summer with Arsenal reportedly passing up the opportunity to sign him – a decision they surely must now regret. Parker has picked up where he left off with consistent excellence in the middle of the park.
|RELIABLE AS EVER|
| PLAYER RATING
|6.5||Gets so much praise for his defensive work but also showed his neatness in possession here as part of a passing carousel with Luka Modric.|
Monday’s match at Anfield summed him up as he turned in the archetypal captain’s performance. His force of will spurred his side on as he never let his work-rate drop, bustling and intercepting and never looking troubled, and displaying a touch of class that is all too often found lacking in England captains. In the end, it took a kick to the groin from Luis Suarez to finally drop Spurs’ colossus to the ground.
That he should produce such a performance on an occasion when his manager, Harry Redknapp, was stuck in London, unable to fly to the match after his day in court due to a reported plane malfunction, is all the more impressive and a testament to his leadership.
So Fabio Capello faces a decision. The national coach has made no secret of his disagreement with the FA’s decision to remove John Terry from his position as England skipper, but the fact is that he will not be able to reverse it.
The Italian is a stubborn man – which has been both a quality and a flaw of his Three Lions tenure – so the expectation will surely be that he will simply move one down the line and elevate vice-captain Steven Gerrard to the same position as stand-in which he fulfilled in South Africa two years ago, but that would be a disappointingly staid decision.
There is no denying that the Liverpool icon has inspired the Reds in the past but he has never done the same for England and cannot, arguably, be seen as a guarantee for Euro 2012 after a season frequently interrupted by injuries and more than one year of diminished excellence for his club.
You could look to the future with someone like Joe Hart, but the national captaincy is not something that needs to be nurtured over a period of years in the same way as a young player needs to be blooded in the first team. The best argument is to give the armband to the best man for the job in the here and now and Parker’s case is stronger than any other.
Any mention of John Terry seems almost legally obliged to hail his loyalty and bravery as a much-hyped bastion of patriotism, but Tottenham’s Mr Dependable displays the same characteristics in an understated way. There’s no nonsense, no PR – much like the manager under whom he will be working in Poland and Ukraine.
In exactly 125 days, England will walk out to face France in Donetsk. It seems safe to say that between then and now there will be plenty more turbulence to come as the Terry fallout rumbles on and the pre-tournament hysteria ramps up.
The Three Lions need a reassuring presence to lead them through it with heads held high, a man who always stands up to be counted and can inspire those around him to do the same.
Scott Parker is that man.
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