Written by Dwayne Hawkins @DwayneWHU
Hero or villain.
Legend or Judas.
Never before has one man made such a substantial impact on the West Ham team and gone on to become one of the most divisive figures in the clubs history. Derision over the club that he chose to represent after his departure has certainly tainted his legacy and left a bad taste in the mouth of a large portion of fans. Were his almost super human performances while wearing Claret and Blue enough to allow us as a fan-base to forgive and forget? Did a man who consistently gave it his all week in and week out during one of our worst periods in recent memory earn the right to pick his next club without being judged in the eyes of the fans and the club?
Those are questions in which every West Ham fan will have a different answer. What we can all agree on is that one of our most influential and inspirational players has announced his retirement from professional football.
Scott Parker. There was no one quite like you.
The summer of 2007 was an exciting time to be a West Ham fan. Although the following few seasons would prove to be anything but, in this transfer window optimism was rife. Eggert Magnusson had completed his takeover of the club in the November previous and his first transfer window in the following January saw big names like Lucas Neil, Matthew Upson and Luis Boa Morte all join the club. That summer West Ham were active in the transfer window and boasting a bulging wallet, they club broke their transfer record by bringing in Craig Bellamy for £7.5 Million. Freddie Ljungberg and Noberto Solano also joined to add further flair to team. These signings would go on to have varying levels of success for the club, but it was Scott Parker, a £7 million buy from Newcastle that would have the biggest impact.
Parker would make his name as a trainee at Charlton, making his debut for the club in 1997. He would soon displace captain Mark Kinsella and become a starting player for the club by the 2000/2001 season. With his tenacious tackling and ability to pick out killer passes he would quickly make a name for himself as one of the brightest prospects in English football. He would go on to make 145 appearances for Charlton before Chelsea would come calling in 2004 and he made the move across London for £10 million. He found himself behind Claude Makelele and Frank Lampard in his first season and as such his career stagnated. He found starts difficult to come by in the Premier League but was a regular performer in the domestic cup competitions. Newcastle offered him a way out in July 2005 and signed him for £6.5 million. By the time his spell at Chelsea came to an end he had managed to make only 15 Premier League appearances in an 18 month spell.
It was at Newcastle that Scott Parker would restart his career and build a reputation as one of the most consistent midfielders in the division. His form led to a recall to the England team and him being made captain at the beginning of his second season of the club following the retirement of Alan Shearer. He made 73 appearances for Newcastle before moving back to London and joining West Ham in the summer of 2007.
Injury would delay the start of his West Ham career, but he made his Premier League debut for the Hammers in the 1 nil defeat to Arsenal in September 2007. Once back in the team and playing regularly Parker would continue to display the form that he showed whilst playing for Newcastle without quite hitting the levels of performance that he would in the following years. His first goal for the club came as a last minute winner in December 2007 against Middlesboro and he finished his first season with the club making 18 Premier League appearances. Over the next few seasons the fans would fully embrace him as their new hero. He was a throwback to a previous time, a reluctant hero who would run that extra ten yards so a teammate wouldn’t have to. He was the embodiment of a working man’s club. A man who left it all on the pitch. Every single week.
He was a man who never truly got the recognition he deserved at international level. He would make 18 appearances for the national side but it wasn’t until 2011 that he would truly become a regular for England. Competing for his spot against bigger names in his position such as Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and Michael Carrick there was often a sniff of derision at the perceived lack of technical ability Parker had compared to the aforementioned players. Never was this more plain to see than when Parker was selected in Fabio Capello’s preliminary 30 man squad for the 2010 World Cup. He did not make the final 23 man squad despite being the best performing central midfielder in the Premier League that season and England would go on to have a poor tournament with their players lacking the passion and drive that defined Scott Parker.
The following seasons brought difficult times and back to back relegation battles. The first of which we survived through the skin of our teeth and a swing of Parker’s boot, as he scored the winning goal in a win against Wigan and secured West Ham’s place in the Premier League for another season. In September 2010 he signed a new contract, becoming at that time the highest paid player in the club’s history. The following season featured some of the worst performances West Ham have had in recent memory. Scott Parker was the one player that gave me hope that things could turn around for the better. That maybe we could find a way to dig ourselves out of the hole we had dug. I have vivid memories of being at Upton Park that season and seeing Parker making yet another challenge and the man stood beside him who only seconds before had been cursing loudly clapping his hands together and screaming out at the top of his lungs, “Does anybody else want to put any effort in!” The familiar sound of Super Scotty Parker rang around the ground moments later, just as it so often did during his spell with the Hammers.
He was as inspirational behind the scenes as he was on and demonstrated it during a half time team talk that he gave which was enough to motivate West Ham to come back from 3 nil down in a game against West Brom and salvage a draw. Carlton Cole spoke about that day and inparticular that team talk, stating; “If you were there you would have shed a tear.” It was too much for Parker to do alone that season and West Ham did succumb to relegation, marking his place in history as the most undeserving man to ever suffer a relegation from the Premier League. He would leave the club and have successful spells with Tottenham and Fulham before announcing his retirement from professional football aged 36 in June 2017.
He became the first player to win back to back Hammer of the Year awards since Julian Dicks, and then won it for a third straight time the following the season. He won the FWA Player of the year award the season West Ham finished rock bottom of the Premier League. He brought a level of determination and desire to win that the Hammers faithful had barely seen before and are yet to see since. Whether he can ever go down as a true West Ham legend is a question I will leave fans to answer themselves. However, for all his contributions to the club during the four years he played for West Ham, I would just like to say thank you Scott. There was no one quite like you.