Parker's journey from margins to centre stage is finally complete
Midfielder explains how he caught Capello's eye despite post-World Cup doubts about his England future
Scott parker was named in Fabio Capello's provisional World Cup squad in May last year and, like the rest of them, he did the training camp in Austria and endured the long hours of boredom in his hotel room that are part of the job. The difference between Parker and the rest of the 27 outfield players was that the Tottenham midfielder did not play a single minute of either of the two warm-up games before he and six other players were cut.
Against Mexico at Wembley and Japan in Austria days later, Capello managed to give everyone a game apart from Joe Hart and Parker. Then on 1 June he told those who would be left behind the bad news and Parker was left with his luggage and a free summer. The focus was on Theo Walcott's omission but Parker had not even been given the opportunity to impress Capello outside of the squad's training session.
It makes it all the more remarkable that 17 months on, at the age of 30, he finds himself a virtual certainty to start against Montenegro tomorrow and, for the future, a mainstay of the team even if Capello had all his first-choice players fit. In May last year, the impression was very much that Parker was there because Capello had no alternative but he would only take him to South Africa if he had to; now his status has changed.
Parker said: "I went to the pre-World Cup squad and I thought I did pretty well but, in saying that, I knew it would be difficult for me because I wasn't really involved in any of the qualifying matches and I knew that the manager had his team. Putting myself in his position, I probably would have gone along the same lines. Obviously, injuries occurred and I thought I might have had a chance but it wasn't meant to be.
"Coming away from that initial disappointment, I thought it was going to be pretty difficult to get back in under Mr Capello, I knew there wouldn't be a lot of opportunity. But I said to myself I will get my head down and let's see what happens and, thankfully, it has turned around. I got my chance."
His chance came against Denmark in February when, with England having been embarrassed by France at Wembley three months earlier, Capello brought Parker on at half-time and he impressed. England won 2-1 and the man who was voted the Football Writers' Association player of the year has been in every one of the five squads Capello has named since then.
"It is clear to see there are a lot of young players, very good players, coming in and people talk about my age but you could probably include me in that [group of new players]," he said. "I haven't got a lot of experience at international level, I am 30 and one of the oldest in the squad and I am new to this as well. It is an evolving England team, it is pretty attacking and it is looking up.
"I've never been to a tournament before. I've been away with the Under-21s and 18s, but not the seniors. After missing out in South Africa I didn't think I'd figure again, but football changes pretty quickly. I've learnt that over the course of my career. It's changed for me recently, but I need to stay focused and keep working to stay in the team."
Since he emerged as a talented young prospect at Charlton Athletic, Parker has developed as a predominantly defensive player – a role that he fulfils now with Tottenham Hotspur after his summer move from West Ham. It was a conscious decision, he says, to give himself a better chance of succeeding at the highest level.
"I went to Chelsea and it [defensive midfield] was a position that Claude Makelélé took up and made his own. I went there as his understudy and never quite did it [at Chelsea]. From there I moved on. I'd like to think there is more to my game than just that, but I realise that my main attributes are on the defensive side
"I think for England there has been a clamour for someone in that position. We have had [that] in the last few years and at this moment myself and Gareth Barry are probably seen as the most defensive midfield players in the squad.
"When I am in the team with Gareth we need to be very disciplined. You saw in the Bulgaria game we had very, very good attacking players and when I am in the team I need to produce a disciplined performance that allows the others to go on and do their stuff."
Harry Redknapp has been open about the difficulties he had persuading his chairman, Daniel Levy, to buy a 30-year-old footballer and give him a long-term contract, but his performance in the win over Arsenal on Sunday showed Parker has become important to Spurs.
"I think football has a hang-up with people's ages," Parker said. "I understand there is a time when age hits you and you can't run any more – it becomes a big issue, but in my circumstances I feel I can deal with things a lot better and I am a better player now."
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