Following West Ham’s stunning comeback at the Hawthorns, striker Carlton Cole was quick to credit his captain, Scott Parker, as the inspiration behind the three goal second-half from the Hammers. Speaking in his post-match interview, Cole said:
There are no doubting Parker’s credentials on the pitch with it clear West Ham would be in an even more dire situation if they were unable to call on their inspirational captain. His consistent form this season has seen him earn a recall to the England squad culminating in a strong second-half performance in last week’s friendly in Denmark. Cole praising Parker in this manner certainly highlights the attributes of the former Charlton man, but some may feel it shows the lack of leadership from manager Avram Grant. Parker clearly felt this was part of his role as captain, but others involved in the game may feel it should always be the manager’s job to motivate his players. If a manager cannot do this the question of whether he has lost his players could be laid against him.
When speaking about his player in 2006, former Newcastle manager Glenn Roeder, not only touched on Parker’s ability to inspire players he also draws attention to the fact that players, not always managers, are the motivators in the dressing room:
“Scott’s career at Chelsea was unfortunate because of injuries, but I always remember this: Jose Mourinho sometimes asks his players to deliver the one-minute motivational team talk before they go on the pitch and Mourinho said Scott’s was the best ever. When he goes into one of those passionate speeches about the importance of winning, how important it is to the fans, your family, you actually feel like grabbing a shirt off the nearest players back and going down the tunnel yourself.”
The passion in Parker’s speech looks to be what Cole was alluding to, but in highlighting Mourinho’s policy at Chelsea it is clear that great managers understand both their players and what is needed in difficult situations. Whether Grant prompted his captain or simply stood back and allowed things to take their course it is clear he understands his captain’s will to win and the effect he has on his team. Grant should not be criticised, in allowing Parker time to speak at half-time he was able to concentrate on his tactics, such as introducing Frederic Piquionne to devastating effect.
Grant has been much maligned during his time at West Ham by both the press and reportedly members of the boardroom, but his players are still playing for him, much in the same way his Portsmouth charges did for him last season. This is in stark contrast to the situation seen at other struggling Premier League clubs. Before Roy Hodgson left Anfield it appeared as if certain Liverpool players were not playing for their manager, whereas Paul Ince appeared to lose some of his players as soon as he took over at Blackburn.
The passion shown by West Ham and Parker on Saturday may be evidence that West Ham will stay in the Premier League, but it may also be evidence for the boardroom that Grant does have the capabilities to succeed in the job.