How quickly we forget. Scott Parker was Tottenham’s heartbeat; the player who helped make the concept of professional footballer as role model viable, rather than the sort of bad joke that belongs in a Christmas cracker. He was Footballer of the Year, England captain. His name echoed around White Hart Lane, where Tottenham fans of a certain vintage admired his straight-backed, selfless approach. He was depicted, with due reverence, as a throwback to previous generations.
Then, suddenly, he was assumed to be expendable. An Achilles injury, aggravated while playing for England at last summer’s European Championship, threatened to ruin his season. He needed surgery, and during his four-month hiatus the burgeoning partnership of Sandro and Mousa Dembélé in Tottenham’s midfield compromised his status.
There was even a brief interlude when it seemed Spurs were contemplating the unthinkable – moving him on. Speculation linking him with Harry Redknapp at QPR was inevitable, immediate and faintly demeaning. Though Parker’s temperament is ideally suited to a protracted relegation battle, his talent deserves to be utilised in a top-six team.
Parker has been around long enough to know that in football, a door tends to open only when it slams in another man’s face. He has had to wait for his chance, after being consigned to the bench, but Sandro’s injury at Loftus Road last Saturday offered him the perfect platform. His performance wasn’t enough to eke out the type of win that defines teams of the highest quality, but it highlighted his leadership qualities. His authority was unforced, and even if he did offer a sharp word or 10 as those around him struggled to find sufficient imagination to break down conservative opposition, his strictures were accepted.
Signs that a tipping point had been reached were everywhere. André Villas-Boas, who has rotated Tottenham’s squad adroitly, was fulsome in his praise for a player he admitted to coveting while he was in charge at Chelsea. Roy Hodgson was also an interested spectator. Once Parker regains match sharpness, he has an unanswerable claim to be included in the England squad for next month’s showpiece friendly against Brazil at Wembley.
Parker concedes that this blip in his career has been unexpected, and frustrating in its length, but he has been enriched by adversity. One thing’s for sure: he won’t be disregarded so casually again.