The news that Fulham had signed Scott Parker surprised a few of us last night – if only for the speed of the famous Motspur Park medical. It is no secret that Martin Jol has been after midfield additions for some time and, although Parker isn’t the deep-lying playmaker that his side still seems short of, he’ll add an intensity and vigour that has been lacking for some time. Midfield’s been a source of some frustration since the departure of Danny Murphy a year ago – and now, with the likes of Derek Boateng, Steve Sidwell and – perhaps even Saturday’s matchwinner Pajtim Kasami – battling Parker for a starting place – it could be perceived as a strength.
Parker hasn’t quite recaptured the glorious heights of his first season at White Hart Lane when he shone during Spurs’ unexpected title tilt. The tigerish qualities that took him into the international reckoning – and then, briefly, to the heights of England captain – typified the desire of a man who refuses to know when he’s beaten. Even though he might cut the debonair figure of a wartime RAF captain, Parker’s more grit than glamour. A hassler and harrier who will work the opposition in the ground, snapping at their ankles until they surrender possession.
Parker’s more than just a tough-tackler too. His range of passing is often overlooked – and it’s here where he might be the closest thing Fulham have had to a replacement for Danny Murphy. Playing in the deeper role, competent on the ball, comfortable collecting it from the back four and distributing it, but disciplined enough to know that his job is to keep things tight and allow the more creative members of the side to play with freedom. Some have quibbled with the length of Parker’s contract, wondering if a three-year deal for someone who has been bedraggled by injuries recently is the wisest decision, but this strikes me as a sensible investment at a time when there are few players of Parker’s pedigree available.
In a team that has often appeared fairly muted, Parker will be vocal. A natural leader, his appetite for success will marry well with Brede Hangeland’s more understated approach to captaincy. Jol’s comments on BBC Radio 5 Live last night suggest that his character was just as important as his footballing ability. His team-mates speak highly of his motivational abilities (see how Carlton Cole lauded a half-time pep-talk that revived West Ham at West Brom) and he’ll provide a fine example at the training ground to any of Fulham’s highly-rated youngsters.