Spirit, determination and passion to play for the club are all attributes that many people would consider the most when discussing their favourite West Ham player. For myself, this is no different and one man stands out as having all these things during my time as a West Ham fan. Three time Hammer of the Year (HOTY), Scott Parker, got what I can only call a mindboggling reception at Upton Park last Monday and one that I really think my favourite West Ham player ever did not deserve.
Parker served his time at the club during one the worst teams I’ve seen us play in the top tier of West Ham, and while it must have been extremely frustrating for him, he fought for the club week in, week out.
Being a season ticket holder at West Ham since the mid 90s, I’ve picked Parker over the others I’ve idolised such as Paolo Di Canio, Joe Cole and Carlos Tevez, for a number of different reasons. In Parker’s second season at the club, the 2008-2009 season, I was surprised to see him winning HOTY after his season was hindered by injury and the impressive performances from Rob Green. Yet, two seasons later, when he was awarded with the honour for a third time, there was no one that deserved it more. Under Zola and Grant, we came across as a club with little direction, and if there was one it was down, however Parker showed his commitment to the club when he signed a five contract in 2010, even though there were bids from Spurs and Aston Villa. He continued to perform out of his skin in a midfield that consisted of a still developing Noble, Kovac and Boa Morte throughout the 2010-2011 season. His exceptional performances were highlighted by his return to the England national team and winning the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year.
One of the main reasons Parker is my favourite player is how he played his football while he was here. Gritty, powerful and fearless, Parker was everything the West Ham faithful looked in a defensive midfielder. His hold up play in the centre of midfield was something that he became accustomed with and I would argue it was one of the greatest skills I’ve seen at Upton Park. Never shying from a tackle, Parker was an old school footballer that had no time for silly flicks or playacting, he got the ball and would look to use it in the best way to aid the team.
Passion within football players, many people would argue, is declining but Parker was an exception. Two particular examples stand out in my head, one at home to Wigan Athletic and the second away to West Brom. The Wigan game occurred during the Gianfranco Zola season and it was third game left of the season. Threatened with relegation all season and it being a must win against a fellow relegation struggling side, the atmosphere within the stadium was as tense as I can remember. At 2-2, Parker hit the winner from outside the box and the amount of emotion that was displayed really showed what the club meant to him. After an embrace with Zola and match of the match performance, that day really signalled Parker as a potential West Ham legend.
The following season, under Grant, Parker once again showed his worth at The Hawthorns in mid February 2011. ‘The captain that never was’ was praised by team mate Carlton Cole, who actually addressed him as ‘the captain’, for a team talk at half time that inspired a comeback from being 3-0 down to a 3-3 draw. Another man of the match performance, Parker’s desire for the club to stay in the Premiership was increasingly becoming more apparent. With manger Grant and the actual captain, Matt Upson, somewhat lacking influence within the dressing room, Parker brought together the dysfunctional squad.
My final reason why Parker is my favourite player ever West Ham relates to his departure. For the previous two years, Parker had given his all to keep West Ham in the league, however this is not a job for one man and he was eventually defeated. At 30 years old, he was playing the best football of career and if he wanted to retain his ambitions as a footballer he’d have to move on. I can understand why he went to Tottenham, mainly because they were the main club that wanted him, but also there were lots of incentives for him.
Playing European football, Parker was still very much in the frame for England, something he’d expressed was important to him. Perhaps even more importantly to Parker, as a family man, his family and his young children could remain in London and reportedly, it was one of his father’s dying wishes that he one day play for Spurs, his dad’s club, before he ended his career.
Lots of player’s leave for financial incentives without even considering their relationship with the fans or those around them. Parker’s exit from the club was dignified and he expressed sadness at where he had to leave the club in his transfer request and his speech after picking up his third HOTY. “I hope the fans will understand and respect my decision and I wish the club every success in their fight for promotion this season.”
I hope if anyone reads this article that booed Super Scott last Monday may consider their actions and what he actually did for the club, as I feel his contribution to the club has been the biggest I’ve known and his achievements elsewhere should be celebrated.