Scott Parker, tigers, Fulham’s youngsters and why we look at all of these things differently

Further to an excellent comment below, yes Scott Parker probably is being judged to higher standards than his teammates at the moment.

When we make up our minds about players we’re not just reacting to what we see on the pitch. So say Scott Parker gets 5/10. When we think about Scott Parker we all draw on our expectations of what Scott Parker is.

Suppose we meet a tiger in the street for the first time. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have no experience of tigers. But I’m able to draw an inference that this tiger might be dangerous, so I act accordingly. If the tiger then bares its teeth I’m going to be twitchy. Now, it turns out the tiger was just yawning, but it gave me an awful fright for a moment. After a while, as we get used to the tiger, we realised that it’s not going to bite us at all, and we recalibrate our expectations a bit. Now, if someone new to the area comes across the tiger they’re all “whoah!” but to those of us who have seen it around and got used to its habits, we realise that this tiger doesn’t bite. We relax. It’s just a big friendly tiger. That doesn’t mean we’re completely sure about our tiger. It might bite us. But we’re not super-charged in our fear here. Respectful is the word. It would have been stupid to decide the tiger wouldn’t bite after seeing it just once – although a lot of people would have done exactly this – but after we’ve seen it a few times we do recalibrate our expectations.

So it is with Parker. When we got Scott Parker he wasn’t far removed from being England’s player of the year. He’d played well enough for Spurs and felt like just what we needed. Now, some people might have made snap judgement, particularly those with access to fitness reports perhaps, but for the rest of us it was a question of waiting and seeing. This was Scott Parker! Saviour of West Ham. England hero. Good egg. Leader. We were lucky to have him. But as time moved along we realised that rather than being part of the solution, Parker was a big part of the problem. It wasn’t just him, but somehow all of Fulham’s combinations were wrong last year and because we’d expected so much of Parker it felt quite easy to point fingers at him. We had an expectation of what Parker might be and what we saw wasn’t it. We expected an 8/10 player and we got a 6/10 player. But to us – for the reasons outlined above – he felt like a 5/10 player.

Fast forward to the Championship. Alright! Scott’s going to dominate here, what with his knowhow.

But again, he didn’t deliver. He played okay, but it felt like there were too many occasions where he tried to do a bit more on the ball than his skillset might warrant. There are players in this team who do some things better than Parker, but he seemed to want to impose himself on various moves rather than just keeping things ticking along. As I noted at the time, there were occasions when an obvious recycling ball looked on, but Parker failed to take the option, ran into trouble, then played the same kind of ball anyway. Now, like Bryan getting dispossessed, this probably happened far fewer times than my mind thinks it did, but nevertheless, these are the things I take from watching Parker now. I’m biased, I have made up my mind: I look for the things he’s not doing well to back up my feeling that he’s no longer up to it. I don’t do this on purpose and if he plays out of his skin I’ll notice this, too, but generally speaking if he’s bumbling around having a middling game it’s the things that conform to my perception of Parker that I’ll remember.

By way of contrast, if one of the 18 year olds plays the same way they’ll get 6 or 7/10 from most of us. We have no preconceptions, they’re young and starting out, so we have lower expectations, we desperately want to see the best in them, so we’ll overlook the negatives and focus on the positives. The Ipswich first goal comes when a bouncing ball is badly headed by Hyndman (?), then Parker doesn’t take control and they score. Now, everyone focuses on Hutchinson getting burned here because that was very obvious, but in midfield we focus on Parker, not Hyndman. We want the kids to do well, desperately so. They get more rope. Parker doesn’t get that.

This of course is why Fulham have been very smart in going the way they have. Facing an absolute meltdown of a season the club have cleared the decks of the tainted many and brought in the kids. The fans will pretty much back the kids come what may. The board, the manager, and yes, Scott Parker, are likely to get some flak, but the kids will ensure that there’s some feelgood factor around the club this season. That’s clever.

Whether the tiger ends up biting anyone is beyond me, but by now I suspect not.

3 thoughts on “Scott Parker, tigers, Fulham’s youngsters and why we look at all of these things differently

  1. This is a very logical argument and build from yesterdays discussion. In fairness to Parker, he also has to get used to (a) an entirely new team around him and (b) a slightly different shape & system. You could argue that as a CM playmaker, this is going to effect him more than say a full back who’s told “this is your zone”. So in his defence, some of his ball retention/failure to move it swiftly (as we were accustomed to with Murphy) is perhaps due to not quite being sure what the right pass is at this minute. For instance, Dembele failed to hold a ball up most of the game. He also didn’t particularly make the best runs in behind players, turn them or create the best angles for passes. It’s one of those things, he did it better last season in the PL game he was thrust into, he didn’t quite have the impact he might have – could’ve been nerves, could’ve been expectations but either way it limits options for those in midfield & it’s probably fair that Parker wasn’t certain what the best option was to (a) build the attack and (b) ensure the team don’t get caught on the break.

    One would imagine the central midfield/playmaker role has developed quite significantly in the past decade with the way teams play on the ‘transition’, aiming to break on teams over-stretched. Lord knows we fell victim to it more than most last season, so perhaps Parker being tentative in decision making might also be a slight hangover to watching countless concessions last season with the likes of Reither in no-man’s land. Might take a little while just to build trust with the new players, that they aren’t going to get similarly caught on the ball, out of position & expose the team.

    So it is definitely worth coming back to this discussion after 6 or 8 games, once the team and shape are more set. A clear suspicion you have watching Parker is that he’s not likely to get any better….he may become more valuable to the team, but at his age he can be an effective performer but his best days are definitely passed. So whether he’ll ever be able to make 8/9 out of 10 on the scale is probably debatable now.

    If it had of been possible, keeping Sidwell would have been more important for me, than Parker. He feels exactly the type of character that would have been a huge asset in the division, shame he’s not still there.

  2. Good – optimistic – pieces; I’m with Sidwell too, he would have offered grit and last Saturday would have returned a few of those heavy tackles with interest!

  3. I thought something similar when you wrote your post about Full Back/Winger combinations, and mentioned how much we missed Duff. Because we always knew he was good, we never really got excited about him in the way we did with, say, Dembele. When actually, he was probably worth 6+ points a season,

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