Football: New faces for 1999 - Practice just perfect for Parker
Art imitates life as a schoolboy steps up from a television commercial to a career in professional football.
Friday 08 January 1999
"When I was a little boy sitting in the crowd, watching the teams run out, I just dreamt of it," he said. At half past one last Saturday, with half-a-dozen appearances as a substitute behind him, the dream came true as he was given the nod to start Charlton's FA Cup tie at Blackburn on the right of midfield. He earned good reviews before succumbing to cramp late in the game as familiar defensive howlers undermined his team.
Now aged 18, Parker was old enough and wise enough to play things simple; no juggling the ball on his thigh or flicking it up and catching it on the back of his neck, which were the sort of tricks that had first brought him to the nation's attention five years ago, in a televised advertisement for McDonald's. These days he seems a little embarrassed by it all, but has no need to be. In coming through the audition from 50 of his contemporaries, he demonstrated qualities of skill under pressure, a sunny disposition and commendable patience in his first exposure to the media - it took six hours of filming in a back garden in Friern Barnet to produce the 30-second commercial.
The theme, according to the advertising agency, was that practice makes perfect. The 13-year-old took it to heart, and within a year or so was determined that a football career was for him. Remarkably, he had been training with Charlton since the age of eight and would stay with them despite the efforts of the club he supported, Tottenham, and others, to prise him away. At the FA National School at Lilleshall, he shared facilities with older northern boys such as Michael Owen ("a really good lad"), Wes Brown and Michael Ball and, while others of his own age grew homesick, Parker grew up. Highly regarded by the England hierarchy, he played international football at under-15 and under-16 level and has now graduated to the under- 18 side, preparing for their Uefa youth championship qualifying group in March.
Charlton have long been aware of what a potentially good player they had and knew that being able to offer early opportunities of first-team football, as they had done to youngsters such as Robert Lee and Lee Bowyer, was a powerful incentive for him to stay with them.
The point was dramatically made early last season when left-back Paul Konchesky, at 16, became the youngest player to turn out for the first- team, to be followed soon afterwards by Parker, as a substitute at Bury.
As manager Alan Curbishley acknowledges, both would have been given more opportunities this season had Charlton not won through the epic Wembley play-off final against Sunderland last May to earn an unlikely place in the Premiership. "If we hadn't gone up, I wouldn't have bought Neil Redfearn and Chris Powell, so there'd have been more openings," he said. "But Scott's come in last week and done very well. He needs to improve on his defensive responsibilities, and he can finish a bit better, given the positions he gets into. Apart from that, he's very comfortable, very tidy, a good passer, very fit and has a good football brain. We feel he's got a great chance and I think he feels he should be playing a bit more."
The chance will undoubtedly come, if not in this weekend's critical relegation set-to at Southampton, then before long. And he will have done his homework.
interviewThe producer and activist, Trudie Styler, whose film 'Filth' is up for five British film awards, is tapping into the industry's neglected female talent
musicBlack Sabbath have pulled off one of rock music’s great comebacks – against all odds
theatreTheatre's hitmaker Daniel Evans on 'Oliver' and bringing 'The Full Monty' to the stage
interviewHer estate has become the nation's glossiest food empire
food + drinkMichelin-starred Tom Sellers on being this year's hottest property
tvParents (and kids) rejoice! A new wave of fantastic family entertainment is here
booksGeese, gorillas, grandads... and growing up
food + drinkHow one grocery e-tailer is gearing up for the Yuletide rush
food + drink
travelFor broadcaster Mishal Husain, a long-haul Club Med holiday was a chance for her family to explore its sense of 'zen' and 'animation'
food + drinkFestive snacks don't have to be fiddly, says Bill Granger
Latest in Sport
- 1 Hundreds arrested as Canadian police smash worldwide paedophile ring
- 2 Is this the scariest advert ever? Japanese tyre commercial comes with its own disclaimer and health warning
- 3 Sherlock series 3: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman provide teasers for the biggest comeback in British television
- 4 A forgotten episode in Russian history leaves links with the Philippines
- 5 People will try to reduce Mandela to a lilting reggae tune about ‘love’. They will fail
£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Server Side De...
£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: C# ASP.NET Developer (...
£60000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: Senior C# WPF .NET Dev...
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: QA Manual Tester FX Trading Platform/Derivative...