Every now and again rumours surface of a dressing room uprising at a club; that player power has truly taken hold of the manager’s domain – well with Carlton Cole waxing lyrical about Scott Parker’s half-time team talk against West Brom after a truly diabolical first half, it leaves us with a burning question, just how much sway does the West Ham Vice-Captain currently have over his fellow players? And furthermore, why wasn’t beleaguered manager Avram Grant reading the riot act just the same as Parker?
In a week where West Ham all but sealed the keys to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford ahead of London rivals Spurs, it was a bad time to go three goals down to a fellow struggling side in West Brom – especially when some were questioning the logic behind giving West Ham the stadium at all when they could feasibly be playing Championship football at the start of the 2014/15 season such is their fluctuating fortunes.
To be quite frank with you readers, I have an at times inordinate amount of affection for all things Scott Parker, some would say to the extent that it even borders on an unhealthy appreciation for his talents. I’ve long since championed his inclusion in the England starting eleven, and he has at times, almost single-handedly kept West Ham in games over the last couple of seasons. He’s an inspiration, pure and simple. The fact that his half-time team-talk instilled a new-found sense of belief in his team-mates to go out and turn things around in the most unexpected and surprising of manners as occurred in the 3-3 draw with West Brom last weekend does not surprise me in the slightest.
However, in some quarters, there are already those that are beginning to question the influence Parker may have over his colleagues in the dressing room after Carlton Cole‘s recent comments. To my mind, his rousing speech is exactly what a captain (in the absence of the injured club captain Matthew Upson) should be doing. Few, if any, could argue that Parker is a divisive figure. Far from it; he regularly unites the side behind his own tremendous personal will to succeed. He is quite simply a fantastic character to have in your side.
Carlton Cole stated that: “We had been diabolical but at half-time Scott was inspirational. He was ‘in the zone’. I’ve never seen him like that. He spurred us on so that we did not disappoint ourselves, the manager, our families and the fans” before adding that it left many a player around the dressing room “with a tear in their eye.” It’s not hard to imagine Parker reading the players the riot act at half-time, but why on earth wasn’t Grant doing just the same?
You can imagine the scene at half-time now. Heads down, Grant in the corner mumbling some form of incoherent nonsense, and Thunderbird Parker erupting in a pique of emotion; well and truly letting rip at his team-mates. The now infamous quote from Gareth Southgate, where he goes on to describe Sven Goran Eriksson’s laidback managerial style during his days as England manager immediately springs to mind when thinking of a typical Avram Grant half-time team-talk and certainly applies when talking about the Israeli‘s managerial style: “we went into the changing room expecting Winston Churchill, all we got was Iain Duncan Smith.”
Grant has a dodgy record in the Premier League. He did fairly well at Chelsea and came within a John Terry slip of winning the Champions League, but that was with a squad that he inherited and that he changed little to, if anything at all. At Pompey, he struggled badly and only their forays deep into cup competitions helped to mask their truly atrocious league form, that would have seen them relegated even if they weren’t deducted points for their financial irregularities.
His appointment at West Ham seemed baffling to say the least at the time and only a bungled move for Martin O’Neill a few weeks ago secured Grant a temporary stay of execution. His status within the English game seems to have come more from his connections and who he knows as opposed to any inherent managerial prowess that he may possess.
Grant has a quiet, shuffling manner about him, and while this may relax the players on the training ground, it isn’t ideally suited to the intensity of the Premier League come match day. He looks devoid of ideas at times and incapable of rousing his troops. I would seriously question Grant’s suitability for the role of managing a side fighting for their top flight survival.
I very much doubt that Parker is ‘calling the shots’ in the Upton Park dressing room at the moment, it’s just that he’s being forced to act due to his own manager’s deficiencies and icy demeanour. The one thing we can gleam from Carlton Cole’s dressing room admission is that Avram Grant is coming up short of what’s required in the man-management stakes when it’s needed most.
It‘s not quite Jean Tigana sitting in the corner at half-time reading a book, as he famously once did while manager of Fulham, but it‘s not a million miles away. Parker’s inspirational speech only highlights what most fans have known all along, that his players are now filling in the gaps where Grant’s authority should be of higher importance.
The proof is in the pudding as they say, and the roots of Parker’s inspirational half-time team-talk most certainly lie in Grant’s deficiences as a manager. He may resemble a dead man walking at times, but what’s concerning for discerning Hammers fans is that he’s now starting to act and manage like one too.