Likeable Parker is the right choice

by Dan Kilpatrick

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Before he has even pulled on the shirt, let alone the armband, Scott Parker can do something remarkable as England captain: make the national team likeable again.

If the English really do have an ‘obsession’ with the captaincy, perhaps it has roots in that iconic image of Bobby Moore – held aloft, grinning broadly, proudly brandishing the World Cup.

John Terry is the possessor of many great qualities but likeabiity is not one. Knowing what kind of man he is, would we really feel the same about a shot of a confetti-showered Terry lifting the European Championships?

Fortunately, the FA has ensured that is no longer a possibility but the point remains. With pre-tournament expectation at an all time low, England desperately need to increase the feel-good factor. Parker’s appointment is a start.

Moore may have had his own run-in with the law, but his legend endures because he was such a well-respected and loved character.

Parker is a long way off such adulation but, unlike Terry, he at least ticks all the boxes. Not only does he resemble a throwback to a more prosperous era but he plays the game in the right way and inspires respect for both his performances and conduct.

At the Emirates on Sunday, he had a poor game for Tottenham Hotspur and was rightly dismissed for a foul on Thomas Vermaelen. Far from staying on the field to complain, he lingered a moment only to ensure he had helped Vermaelen up, before departing without complaint.

It is often said that wind-up merchants – Craig Bellamy springs to mind – are ‘winners’ but Parker is proof that fierce competitiveness does not have to go hand in hand with antagonism. He is well-liked by teammates and opponents alike and clearly inspirational. Last season, Carlton Cole admitted that a half-time pep-talk by Parker brought tears to his eyes and inspired West Ham to come back from 3-0 down to draw at West Brom.

It is no coincidence that Spurs have developed a backbone since Parker’s arrival. At Anfield recently, he was quite simply everywhere as Harry Redknapp’s side held on for a 0-0 draw.

The Spurs boss has often praised Parker’s clean-living and professionalism and these are qualities that England, tainted by sleaze and underperformance in the past, badly need to restore. Whether or not Redknapp takes the England job permanently, Parker’s appointment can help re-establish some faith in the interim.

The England captaincy should, of course, not be reduced to a popularity contest but after the debacle of South Africa and the acrimonious end to Fabio Capello’s reign, it can only be beneficial to have a character respected by fans and media alike. Again, Parker meets the criteria.

The decision is harsh on Steven Gerrard. Nothing should be taken away from the Liverpool man, who is a wonderful player and likeable enough, but he is, as much as anybody, associated with England’s past failings. He is a reminder of the golden generation that proved brassy at best.

Parker may be five months Gerrard’s senior but his lack of experience at England level should count in his favour. He is untainted by the squabbles and failings of the past. It is also worth noting that Gerrard has been neither consistently fit nor at his formidable best for almost two years, whereas Parker has been one of the Premier League’s standout performers for the past two seasons, despite being relegated with West Ham last term.

Ultimately, we will have a better idea tomorrow whether Stuart Pearce’s brave decision will prove wise. It is results and performances, as well as managers, that decide the fate of captains. For now though, likeable Parker is the right man for the job.

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  • dexylongshot

    Total agreement, the boy done good. I think he is the right man to lead us to the finals. Then after that, with a new manager at the helm, be it Harry, Jose or another, it may be time to appoint someone for the armband for the World Cup campaign long term. Hart or Parker would get my nod.

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