Scott Parker was one of those players named by Joey Barton during his "vicious" outburst at Newcastle United a few weeks ago. Parker, Barton said, was "eaten up" by the pressure of being a major signing at St James' Park and it is true that after Alan Shearer invested personal time on holiday in Portugal persuading Parker to leave Chelsea for Newcastle rather than Tottenham, the 6.5m move was unfulfilling for both parties.
Given the chance to re-join his former Charlton manager indeed his first manager, Alan Curbishley, Parker leapt at it this summer. But when he landed at Upton Park it was with a bump.
Prior to Saturday Parker had played in only five Premier League games this season and he had not scored. Spectacularly, memorably, that was rectified in the last minute of a sometimes intriguing, sometimes slapdash affair that was decided by Parker's fleetness of foot inside the Middlesbrough area.
The 90th-minute goal came 364 days after his last in the League and Parker's relief was visible. "When you've been out for so long, and had a lot of disappointments, it doesn't get much better than scoring a last-minute winner," he said.
"It's good to be back. This moment has been a long time coming. I've had to be patient, I got injured in pre-season with a medial ligament problem and it just dragged on and on. The fans have had to wait until nearly Christmas for me to get off the mark, so I hope it was worth the wait."
Their reaction to a fifth away win said it was. Now 27, Parker is reunited with Curbishley more than a decade after the Lambeth-born midfielder signed professionally at The Valley.
"He nurtured me as a young lad and brought me through at Charlton," he said. "He knows me and I know him, which is not a bad thing. People say it never quite happened for me at Newcastle, but I had a good first year up there. I was a firm favourite and I was rewarded with their Player of the Season award.
"Then, after a good start last year, I got injured and for some reason it turned for me. It was a difficult time and, having been made captain, some of the stick was channelled through me. But I haven't got a bad word to say about Newcastle: things go wrong for people in all walks of life. I'm just happy to be back playing again."
Told "to sit" by Graeme Souness, Parker has been asked not to by Curbishley. After half-timeWest Ham were more adventurous. They had been struggling to cope with Middlesbrough's early vibrancy, though by the time David Wheater put Boro ahead in the 40th minute, the game was flat and even.
Wheater's goal had Boro thinking of a third straight win but Dean Ashton belted in an equaliser four minutes later and the game was locked until Parker broke in. Gareth Southgate looked as if he had endured Christmas Day already and with Mido out until next month he may bring in some forward physical presence in the shape of Sheffield United's Rob Hulse. Some might consider that as great a surprise as a Scott Parker goal.
Goals: Wheater (40) 1-0; Ashton (44) 1-1; Parker (90) 1-2.
Middlesbrough (4-4-2) Schwarzer; Young, Woodgate (Huth, 63) Wheater, Pogatetz; Downing, Boateng, Arca, Johnson (Cattermole, 77); Aliadire, Sanli. Substitutes not used: Turnbull (gk), Shawky, Dong Gook.
West Ham United (4-4-2) Green; Neill, Spector, Upson, McCartney; Solano (Noble, 76) Mullins, Parker, Ljungberg; Camara (Pantsill, 86) Ashton. Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Dailly, Ephraim.
Referee: M Atkinson (W Yorkshire).
Booked: Middlesbrough Boateng, Arca; West Ham Parker, Solano.
Man of the match: Parker.
Attendance: 26,007.Reuse content