SHOWTIME FOR SCOTT
Scott Parker feels we’ve had a good season so far, but if we are to make it a great one, he insists now is the time to show our true credentials. By Jon Rayner...
With the big fixtures continuing to come thick and fast, now is the time for big performances and one player who can certainly be relied upon to stand up and be counted is Scott Parker.
Our summer signing from West Ham United has had a major impact on our season, a driving force in midfield whose determination and commitment has inspired his team-mates, delighted our supporters and earned rave reviews from media pundits
The English international was the FWA Footballer of the Year last term for his consistently inspirational displays for the Hammers, despite their relegation, but this season his performances seem to have gone up another level, if that were even possible.
His performance in our goalless draw at Anfield on Monday just typified Scott’s game, as he led by example in the centre of the park, a midfield destroyer who just wasn’t prepared to lose that game. He threw himself in the way of so many shots, made so many tackles and intercepted so many Liverpool passes that it almost seemed as if there were two Scott Parker’s on the pitch!
The abiding image of the game for those watching on TV came in the closing seconds of stoppage time at the end of the contest, when the cameras panned in on Scott, on his haunches, looking physically drained and shattered. But little wonder, since he had run himself into the ground for the cause yet again in our colours.
While we’ve impressed many with our free-flowing football during the 2011-12 campaign so far, we’ve also had to do the dirty work when required to get results and Scott agrees that was certainly the case at Anfield.
“The defensive side of our game against Liverpool was excellent,” said the 31-year-old. “I have to give a special mention to the centre-halves Ledley and Daws, they were magnificent I thought, as were Brad and our two full-backs. But so too was the midfield and you’d have to say that, as a team, we defended very well and probably deserved a point on the night.
“Going to Anfield is always difficult, it was always going to be a tough game, they’ve picked up lately as well so we can’t be disappointed with a draw.
“Obviously at times we would have liked to have been more dominant going forward, but all the great teams have that other side to them and we showed we have it too. People might say it’s negative but football is hard sometimes. We might have tried to play an open game and just been carved apart and lost the match.
“Everyone has seen that, on our day, we can literally dominate any team, when we turn it on we play some fantastic stuff, but it would be naïve of us to think we can go anywhere and play in an open style. We know we can do that, but on this occasion we had a structure, were disciplined and it was a good result.”
This evening we’ll be looking to add to the point on Merseyside with a win over one of Scott’s former clubs, Newcastle United, and on this occasion, we can certainly expect a more expansive game as we welcome the Magpies to the Lane.
Alan Pardew’s side are enjoying a wonderful campaign to date, in fifth place in the Barclays Premier League at the start of the weekend and well in the race for a Champions League spot, surpassing the expectations of perhaps even the most loyal Geordies.
“Newcastle are doing really well and I don’t think I’m being harsh when I say they have surprised a lot of people with the way they’ve performed this season,” Scott added. “Alan Pardew has done an exceptional job up there, they are an organised team with some great individuals in the squad and we know we’re in for a tough game this evening.
“I think people expected them to slip away when they had a couple of defeats and suffered one or two injuries, but they haven’t. They’ve stuck in there, picked up again and full credit to the manager and his players for that,” continued Scott, who highlighted his former Upton Park team-mate Demba Ba as just one of the reasons for the Magpies’ fine campaign.
“Up front they are very strong, Demba is always a threat and I saw that when he was in the side with me at West Ham. I always knew he was a good player but he’s gone up to Newcastle and is banging in the goals. He’ll be a real danger against us today.”
Scott spent two seasons on Tyneside between 2005-07, featuring 73 times and scoring six goals in the famous black and white stripes and admitted it was a good spell in his career.
“I enjoyed my time there massively,” he said. “I was playing well and was named captain after Alan Shearer which was a big thing for me at the time. But a new manager came in with new ideas and chose to move me on, that’s football though and that’s the way it goes sometimes.
“It’s a very intense city in which to play your football, I think a lot of players who have played there feel the same, but when you’re winning games and playing well, there aren’t too many better places to be. It must be brilliant up there for their players at the moment.”
Scott’s appearances with Newcastle and now with us have helped him surpass a significant milestone recently, as our FA Cup tie at Watford was the 400th senior appearance of his club career, a figure he says he could only dream about as a young lad hoping to one day become a professional footballer.
“When I was a kid, or even when I was 20 trying to break in at Charlton, if you’d said to me then that I would go on to play 400 senior games I would have thought you were mad,” he said. “But it’s brilliant for me, I’m very proud of that. I’m 31 now, it’s been a great career so far and I’ve still got a few more years to go hopefully!
“I feel like I’ve got a lot to be optimistic about, especially having joined this great team, I’ve got good years ahead I think and I look forward to every time I put my boots on.”
And Scott’s optimism is hopefully well-placed as we enter the final few months of a season which has delivered some great footballing moments for us…and could still serve up many more.
With just 14 Premier League games remaining, each and every one will feel like a cup final and with some strong performances and the rub of the green here and there, this could yet be a momentous campaign.
“I keep hearing people say we’ve got 14 cup finals left and, to be honest, that’s exactly what they are,” Scott said. “We’ve got some tough fixtures coming up, but we are still in the title race. People are saying we’ve slipped out of it recently but we are only seven points off the top, so we are certainly in contention.
“The position we are currently in with 14 games left has to be seen as an opportunity, as a club we haven’t been here for a long time, so we have to make the most of it. We need to keep getting results and putting points on the board, even if that means grinding them out from time to time.
“We haven’t had too many bad days this season and that shows what a good side we are…and if we do have one, then we are strong enough to bounce back straight away, as all top teams do.
“These next few games are difficult ones but this is where we need to dig in and push on. We’ve got the squad to do that, so I’m really looking forward to the next few months and I’m sure the fans are too.”