Continuing my look back to some Hammer of the Year winners who I’ve previously written about in the ‘Club Connections’ section of my match previews, today we take a look at one of only two players to have won the coveted prize in three consecutive seasons…
Scott Parker was born in Lambeth on 13th October 1980; a Lilleshall graduate, Parker was the 13-year-old keepie-uppie star of a McDonalds advert during the 1994 World Cup. He began his professional career at Charlton, making his debut in 1997; he also had a brief loan spell with Norwich in 2000.
Parker, who had been consistently linked with moves away from Charlton for several years, finally left the Valley just before the January transfer deadline in 2004 to join Chelsea on a four-and-a-half-year contract for a fee of £10 million after a protracted and acrimonious transfer saga. Parker was initially signed to compete with Claude Makelele and Frank Lampard but did not get too many opportunities to play in his preferred position. He scored his only goal for Chelsea in a 2–0 win against Portsmouth at Fratton Park on 11th February 2004. Parker was named as the PFA Young Player of the Year at the end of the 2003/04 season.
Following the summer signings of Arjen Robben and Tiago Mendes, Parker’s first team opportunities were extremely limited during the 2004/05 season, although he was a regular starter in Chelsea’s League Cup matches, a competition where he played in three consecutive victories against West Ham, Newcastle and Fulham. His difficulties were compounded when he broke a metatarsal in a game against Norwich. Parker consequently missed both legs of the League Cup semi-final against Manchester United and the final against Liverpool, although he was awarded a winner’s medal during the trophy presentation. Chelsea went on to won the title for the first time in 50 years –having made only four league appearances for Chelsea during the season, he did not receive a Premier League winner’s medal as he did not make the required ten appearances to be eligible, though Chelsea did have a replica medal made. After scoring one goal in 28 matches in all competitions for the Blues but having found first team opportunities hard to come by, Parker signed for Newcastle in July 2005 for £6.5m.
Scott became a regular in the Newcastle first team and was one of the few players at the club to show any consistency during an often difficult 2005/06 season in which the Magpies finished in seventh place, despite suffering a poor start under Graeme Souness. His first Newcastle goal came against his former club Charlton in a 3-1 defeat on 25th March 2006. Later that month he was diagnosed with glandular fever, putting an end to his season. The timing was especially unfortunate for Parker; he had been playing well but the illness ended any hopes he may have had of forcing his way into the England squad for the 2006 World Cup.
New manager Glenn Roeder named Parker as his captain In July 2006, succeeding the retired Alan Shearer. Despite Newcastle’s poor form, his performances earned him a recall to the England squad in September 2006 after an absence of more than two years. After six goals in 73 matches for Newcastle, Parker left for West Ham United to be reunited with his former Charlton manager, Alan Curbishley, in a £7m deal in the summer of 2007.
Injury played a large part in Parker’s early career in east London, with the midfielder unable to make his debut until a League Cup win over Plymouth at the Boleyn Ground in late September. Three days later Parker was injured again during a home defeat to Arsenal and ruled out for a further two months. His first goal for the club came three days before Christmas, the last-minute winner in West Ham’s first ever victory at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium.
Parker’s second goal for the club was over a year later, from close range in a 2-1 defeat at Bolton in February 2009, by which time Gianfranco Zola had taken over from Curbishley. His season was ended by injury the following month but he had still done enough to win the 2008/09 Hammer of the Year prize. The Irons struggled in 2009/10 and were second bottom of the Premier League when Parker was sent off for two yellow cards in the 2-2 home draw with Arsenal in October. His first goal of that season was a stunning, dipping half-volley from distance to bring the Hammers level at the home of his old club Chelsea in March, although the match would ultimately be lost 4-1. His only other goal that season was infinitely more significant, the winner in a tense 3-2 victory over Wigan on 24th April which secured the Hammers’ survival – Parker’s sensational 77th-minute strike from 25 yards was followed by an emotionally-charged celebration. Two weeks later, he would become the first player to retain the Hammer of the Year trophy since Julian Dicks in 1997.
A 17th-placed finish in 2009/10 resulted in Zola being replaced by Avram Grant and the Hammers would endure a turbulent 2010/11 campaign. Parker was the bright light shining in the east end gloom as he displayed the fight, determination and character sadly lacking in many of his team-mates – he was often mistaken as the club’s captain by an inattentive national media. This was epitomised by his best goalscoring season during his time with the club, Parker opening with three goals in his first six games (the injury-time winner against Oxford in the League Cup, a wonderfully-lofted volley in a 3-1 defeat to Chelsea and a scrambled effort in a 1-1 draw at Stoke). Another three-goals-in-six-games spell followed in October/November as he scored a late headed equaliser in a 3-1 extra-time win over the Potters in the League Cup, struck a thunderbolt in a 2-2 draw with West Brom and grabbed the clincher in a 3-1 win over Wigan.
On 9th February 2011, he became the first England player to receive his first four full caps whilst playing for four different teams, coming on as a second-half substitute for Frank Lampard in a friendly against Denmark. Parker was to score once more for the Hammers that season, a beautifully-executed effort with the outside of his right foot from the edge of the area in a 3-1 home victory over Liverpool in late February. The following month, he played in a 0-0 draw at Tottenham hours after the death of his father. He also started in England’s victory over Wales at the Millennium Stadium. Parker would again be crowned Hammer of the Year, the only player other than Sir Trevor Brooking to claim the award three seasons in a row. He was also named as the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year, an incredible feat considering his club were relegated in bottom place. In doing so, he became the second Hammer to win the award, following in the footsteps of the great Bobby Moore.
Parker started West Ham’s 2011/12 Championship campaign, notching one goal in four league appearances, this coming in a 4-0 win at Watford. At the age of 30, Parker knew he may only have one opportunity left to play in an international tournament and, with Euro 2012 on the horizon, was aware that he would have to be playing Premier League football. With his children in school in the local area, Parker opted to remain in London and signed for close rivals Tottenham for a fee of £5.5m. Parker made 129 appearances for West Ham in all competitions, scoring 12 goals.
Parker was named Tottenham’s Player of the Year in his first season with the club, playing in 29 league matches as the club finished fourth but were denied Champions League qualification as Chelsea won that competition and would compete as holders despite finishing sixth in the Premier League. Parker’s move to Spurs paid off in that he cemented his England place, being named Man of the Match in a friendly against European and World champions Spain in November 2011 and appearing as captain of his country against the Netherlands in February 2012. Parker started all four matches at Euro 2012 as England made the quarter-finals. However, an Achilles injury picked up during the tournament would keep him out of the first four months of 2012/13. After 63 matches without scoring for Tottenham, he was on the move to Fulham in August 2013, with whom he stayed until retiring from football earlier this summer.
Scott Parker, disappointingly, received a mixed reception when he returned to Upton Park as a Tottenham player in February 2013. I was one of the many, however, who gave him a standing ovation when he left the field that night, remembering his four years of exceptional service rather than focusing on the club he left us for. For me, Parker was a perfect picture of passion, perseverance and pirouettes and I am sure he will be long remembered as a West Ham United great. I wish Super Scotty all the very best in his retirement.