Scott Parker looks set to start a second competitive England match in succession when called upon to take the field in Saturday’s encounter with Switzerland at Wembley. In being named in the starting XI for the last qualifier against Wales, Parker made his first start for his country since the autumn of 2006. His first four England caps were accrued under different managers, but under Fabio Capello he seems to be finding his place in the side.
Parker was inspirational throughout the season for West Ham. He drove them on the pitch and was even required to give motivational half-time team talks. If he wasn’t struggling with an achilles injury at the back end of the season there is some who feel West Ham may have saved their Premier League status. His role for England is a little more subdued, but no less important. Having recently adopted a 4-3-3 formation, Capello is able to utilise Parker as the defensive linchpin for his midfield, freeing the likes of Frank Lampard and Jack Wilshere to get forward and play their normal game without the shackles of a more defensive role.
It is surely Wilshere who will benefit the most from this. Capello may have flirted with the notion of using Wilshere in a deeper lying Andrea Pirlo role, but the 19-year-old is clearly more suited to a position where he can influence play higher up the pitch. Wilshere’s passing range is top-draw, but his ability to make things happen with short sharp interplay is up there with his best attributes. To use him collecting the ball from the centre halves would enable him to see more of it, but it would restrict him really dictating play where it hurts. If both he and Lampard can combine higher up the pitch, both will slot into their natural club games. Enabling Wilshere to do this in the opposition’s half is also incredibly important against Switzerland considering the absence of Wayne Rooney for this encounter.
A player in the mould of Parker is vitally important if England are to reach their potential. This has been painfully obvious since Owen Hargreaves’ real emergence on the international scene in 2006. It seems strange that a player of Parker’s ability has not been capped more considering the chronic injury problems of the former Manchester United man. Gareth Barry and at times Michael Carrick have been shoehorned into this role in Hargreaves’ absence, but neither have consistently performed like Parker.
The player himself admits this is his final chance to really make a name for himself on the international stage, but considering his many attributes and a glaring hole in the England team, it is no great surprise to see Capello’s England potentially reaping the benefits of his inclusion. If the current West Ham man puts in the kind of performance many believe he will do, it immediately begs the question what a motivational leader like Parker could have done for a wilting England team in South Africa.
Parker may be taking every England opportunity as they come, but for others around the camp it is difficult not to look forward to the potential influence he could have in 12 months time.