Tottenham's manager Andre Villas-Boas has revealed that his admiration for the England midfielder Scott Parker extended to trying to buy him when he was appointed manager of Chelsea in the summer of 2011. Instead, he eventually went for Oriol Romeu, 11 years younger, who has struggled to make an impression at Stamford Bridge.
A Chelsea scout in 2004 when Parker joined the club for £10m from Charlton, only to be sold to Newcastle a year later for rather less, Villas-Boas said: "I spoke with Scotty to come back to Chelsea last season. He's an important player, an English international and a great professional and somebody of great ability. He can always give you an extra edge on the pitch with his leadership. He's back to full fitness and a player we trust a lot. It's important to have people like him around us."
While Parker missed the first four months of the season following an achilles operation, Sandro and Mousa Dembélé became established as Tottenham's first-choice partnership in central midfield. They started Saturday's dull goalless draw away to Queen's Park Rangers, but Parker came on after barely 25 minutes to replace Sandro, whose knee injury is not as serious as it first appeared.
After dropping two points to their former manager Harry Redknapp's solid but uninspired team, Spurs now need to make sure they do not fall away, as they have tended to do for the past two seasons. Last season they were third at this stage but allowed Arsenal to overhaul them and then lost the fourth Champions League place when Chelsea won the competition. The previous year they dropped from fourth to fifth after a run of only one win in 10 games.
"Maybe what happened in the past will stand us in good stead," Parker said. "I don't know if we've got a better squad than last year because we've lost some world-class players. I just think we can learn from two years and stay strong."
Watched by the England manager Roy Hodgson on Saturday, Parker will hope to return to international football for the prestigious friendly at home to Brazil next month, having been unavailable since last summer's European Championship. "It has been frustrating," he said. "I came out of the Euros, didn't anticipate that it would take nearly as long as it has. I've done a lot of hard work to get to the point I am now and I'm delighted to be back."
Spurs will be without Togo international Emmanuel Adebayor for up to four weeks after he flew to the African Cup of Nations.