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Scott Parker tells all

last updated Saturday 30th November 2013, 1:12 PM

Fulham midfielder Scott Parker
Fulham midfielder
Scott Parker
Scott Parker
At Fulham's Motspur Park training ground, a club executive takes a stroll across the pitches to where an Under 17 match is taking place.

It is that time in the afternoon when the first team players are usually long gone. But the executive is suddenly aware that along the touchline, peering out from underneath the hood of a rain jacket, is a senior member of Martin Jol's squad. Scott Parker is standing alone, watching intently.

Parker's thirst for knowledge is unquenchable. He is staggered to discover that on the same Motspur Park site, the world mile record was once broken.

The old cinder track is now buried beneath perfectly- manicured turf. But on August 28, 1937, the great Sydney Wooderson crossed the line in 4mins 6.4secs. 'Amazing,' says Parker.

Even at 33, in the twilight years of a distinguished career that has seen him captain England and join the pantheon of Footballer of the Year award winners, Parker remains seriously ambitious.

At this moment his main focus is on doing everything in his power to help Fulham climb clear of relegation danger, starting with a hugely important encounter at West Ham today. But there is also a desire to return to the England squad for next summer's World Cup and to one day become a manager.

It is why he takes in youth team games whenever he can and why he is more than simply following the instructions of the new coach recruited to revive a stuttering Fulham team. Rene Meulensteen, once of Manchester United but now Jol's deputy, is someone Parker intends to learn from.

Parker says he can tell a good coach from what he calls 'a bluffer'. 'It's much like when an electrician comes through your front door,' he says. 'You quickly work out if the guy's going to burn down your house.' He chuckles at the analogy but, after 16 years as a professional, he knows that Meulensteen is the real deal, and he says the Dutch combination of Jol and Meulensteen is one that should make all those associated with Fulham feel 'safe'.

'I can only say good things about Rene,' says Parker. 'You only have to look at his track record, who he's worked with. He's very positive with lots of good ideas.

'After a couple of sessions you know if a coach knows what he is doing. Rene has that confidence I like. It's something I've seen in the Dutch before. There's a fine line between arrogance and confidence but these guys have it right. The manager is the same and having them here makes you feel safe.'

Parker is working towards his UEFA A licence with the aim of going on to secure his Pro Licence.

Last summer he spent a fortnight on a coaching course, next summer he will take another week. The experience has given him a better understanding of what it takes to be a successful manager.

'Management isn't just about tactics and what happens on the training ground or in a game,' he says. 'Of course you need those skills. But what you also need is people skills. You need to have a personality, and an ability to build a relationship with your players that means you can control them.

'I saw at Tottenham that Harry Redknapp is a master at that, and the manager here is brilliant, too.

'When you're dealing with 25 men, all with different needs, some with egos, you need to manage that. If you can manage that group you get the best out of them. The manager here is great at delivering his team talks. He can be very funny, too.'

So he fancies management?

'Definitely,' he says. 'When I stop playing I'll want a new challenge. I couldn't just do nothing.

'But I also think I would enjoy managing people.

'Five years ago I might have argued that you shouldn't have to do badges if you've played the amount of games I have.

'Now I realise how much I need to do them, and how much I have to learn.'

Parker is a leader and right now Fulham need all the leaders they can get, sitting in the bottom three and with just three wins all season. They need players who have experience of their current predicament. In a season when Parker was gaining all that personal recognition, West Ham were sliding towards relegation.

'That was strange,' he recalls. 'A bit uncomfortable to be honest. I was playing the best football of my career but I would have traded the awards and the praise for Premier League survival at West Ham.

'I think this is a better situation here... the squad, the manager, the experienced players. I look at myself, the Hangelands, Duffs, Berbatovs and Sidwells. All these have a big part to play. And we have some good young players. We need to step up and get some results.

'My experience at West Ham gives me an understanding of what it takes to get out of this kind of situation. It's still early in the season and there are a lot of teams around us, so we need to stay as positive as we can. But I don't think our season is going to be defined by Liverpool away and Manchester United at home.

'It's the games coming up that are crucial. The Christmas period, too. But I believe that, if you put in the hard work, things will turn and with a new coach coming in and the manager working hard, I see no reason why it can't turn for us.'

His mention of Dimitar Berbatov brings us back to a certain corner against Southampton and the Bulgarian's abject failure to follow Parker's instructions and stop Rickie Lambert from scoring.

'I don't think he didn't listen to me; I just think it was down to a bit of movement,' he says with admirable generosity. But was he not tempted to pin Berbatov against a dressing room wall afterwards? 'I'm not that sort of bloke,' he says.

Nor is he the sort of bloke to sit on the bench. After a difficult, injury-plagued season at Spurs, he felt it was time to move on. 'I came here because I wanted to play football,' he says. 'It's what I've always done.

'I had three years on my contract at Chelsea and could have sat there and had a cushy life. But I wanted to play and went to the other end of the country, to Newcastle, to do it. Looking back now that's probably my one regret.

'If I had stayed for another year, been patient, I might have broken into Jose's (Mourinho) team. But I left for the right reasons.'

After an excellent spell at Spurs under Redknapp, life became more difficult under Andre Villas-Boas. 'I injured my achilles towards the end of the season, in the build-up to the Euros,' he says. 'I thought I was fine to go to the Euros but the problem hadn't cleared up. By the time the Italy game went to extra time I knew I was in trouble. I was probably running on adrenaline during the tournament but, by the end, it had packed up on me.

'That summer I had to have surgery. I went to Sweden but there were complications caused by a lesion on the tendon, which delayed the surgery. Then I rushed back sooner than I should have because there was a new manager coming in. I wanted to hit the ground running.

'Trouble was I was trying to run three weeks after the surgery and, before I knew it, I was out for five or six months. That made it very tough. When I got back I thought I did okay but when Tottenham spent that much money on players in similar positions I knew it would be difficult for me.

'I have no hard feelings towards the manager. But I didn't want to be at Spurs not playing. Not at 33. I wanted to make a contribution somewhere.'

He would still like to make a contribution for England too, even if he recognises that he does not seem to be on Roy Hodgson's radar. His omission from more recent England squads is curious given his apparent importance to England at the last tournament.

When Parker injured his achilles shortly before Euro 2012, it was regarded as something of a national disaster. A few months prior to that Stuart Pearce, in his one match as interim manager a couple of months earlier, had made him captain.

He rather hopes his impressive performances for Fulham catch Hodgson's attention. 'I've often found myself in a position where I have to prove myself again,' he says.

'Fabio Capello took some convincing. Franco Baldini would tell me that he liked me as a player but he would then say Fabio wasn't so sure. The turning point was the Denmark game.

'I realise now, at 33, that it's going to be difficult for me. As a country we do want to see younger players coming through. But, at the same time, there can still be a mix. I think I can bring experience and a certain quality.

'When I played for England I felt I made a big contribution. I helped us qualify for the Euros. I was England player of the year one season. That was great. As was being captain, very special. But I understand how these things work and can't be too disappointed.'

Has Hodgson remained in contact? 'No,' he says. 'To be fair I did get a late call to join the squad for the trip to Brazil in the summer but I was struggling with injury at the time, so I had to say no.

'Roy has a very good squad and, as a manager, he will organise them very well. I saw that at the Euros. In terms of his organisation and the way he sets up his team, I was impressed with him. If I can stay fit, and keep playing well, he knows where I am.'

If not playing a game, he'll probably be watching one.

Source Matt Lawton at Daily Mail
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