National team captaincy saga far from resolved despite Parker leading England against the Netherlands

The first England game of the post-Fabio Capello era saw the Three Lions slump to a 3-2 defeat against the Netherlands under the stewardship of Stuart Pearce, the caretaker manager drafted in following the Italian’s resignation, and Scott Parker, the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder named as captain. If the identity of the national team’s next full-time boss is unclear, the situation regarding the armband is barely less cloudy despite Parker’s elevation to skipper against the Dutch.

Parker’s selection ahead of the former – and perhaps still current – vice-captain Steven Gerrard, who started the match but departed before half-time as a precaution over a hamstring injury, would appear to indicate that if the decision is to be Pearce’s, he will support Parker as the permanent captain of England. When the national team is in such a state of flux however, one rarely seen for an international set-up as chaotic as even England’s often is, with FA chief executives coming and going and the captaincy bouncing around with abandon, there are no certainties. Harry Redknapp is still considered the bookmakers’ choice to be the next manager of England and the identity of Redknapp’s preferred captain is still unknown.

Will the current Spurs boss persist with Parker, who he knows well from White Hart Lane? Or will Redknapp turn to the more experienced Gerrard, the undoubted No 1 Joe Hart, or talismanic striker Wayne Rooney? What if the next England manager is neither Redknapp nor Pearce, but rather a third contender who has his own opinion on who should wear the armband? The situation then becomes, implausibly, murkier still. Pearce’s appointment of Parker strengthens the former West Ham player’s hand, and, although judgements from a one-off mid-season friendly must be made with caution, there was at least nothing in Parker’s performance or manner that suggested he was overawed by the responsibility.

Parker does have experience of captaincy, having at times performed the duty at West Ham, usually when Matthew Upson was injured, but the 31-year-old has long been the type of player to show the qualities of leadership regardless of who held the armband. A piece in the Guardian in 2006 elaborated on this further. Quoting former West Ham manager Glenn Roeder, the article said: “Jose Mourinho sometimes asks his players to deliver the one-minute motivational team talk before they go on to the pitch and Mourinho said Scott’s was the best ever.” These sentiments were echoed last season by Carlton Cole, who, according to the BBC credited a Parker half-time team talk with producing a three-goal second-half comeback to draw 3-3 with West Bromwich Albion.

The captaincy may yet reside with Parker, or perhaps revert to Gerrard, or even John Terry should the Chelsea centre-back’s legal issues resolve themselves, but Parker’s positioning as England’s on-pitch leader does at least confirm one thing. The Tottenham midfielder is now one of the national team’s first choice picks and, as shown at Chelsea and West Ham, where Parker was not the official team captain, whether he wears the armband or not, his leadership skills are unquestioned by his manager and his teammates.

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