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Thursday, July 02, 06:43:07amLogin ] [ Contact Forum Admin ] [ Main index ] [ Post a new message ] [ Search | Check update time | Archives: 1234 ]


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Date Posted: Sunday, June 28, 07:36:07pm
Author: Ji
Author Host/IP: cpc101590-mort7-2-0-cust139.19-2.cable.virginm.net / 92.239.24.140
Subject: Parker's Seige Mentality

Yesterday i was one of many who wrote a negative post about Scott Parker. It was infuriating to see us look so bad defensively and offer little threat up front. To then hear him use the words "exceptional" to describe any of our play really grated, even if he was just putting a positive spin on things. We had just thrown away our chance at automatic promotion and for a lot of us FFCTV (season ticket holder) subscribers that meant the realisation we'd made the wrong choice on a refund on our season tickets ffs.

Now, i'm not having a complete about-turn because i've calmed down (i am still not happy about how bad we were); but i do think there's a very good case for sticking with Parker till the end of the season, based on the little i know of the man (of what you can really know of anyone).

Yesterday, a moment from a few seasons ago popped into my head:
Almost two years into watching Scott Parker in the Championship, around the time we were battling it out with MK Dons against relegation, i was so infuriated with our overpriced midfield acquisition, that i finally rieached my tipping point. When he failed to keep the ball from going out for a goal kick, from one our attacks, i took the unusual step of giving him some abuse from up in the Hammersmith end. "Sort your f***ing life out Scott". Something to that effect. He definitely heard it.

Having got into playing football properly only when i was a teenager (through my increasing love for Fulham), i'd started out as very limited and somewhat nervy player myself; so the importance of encouragement rather than criticism wasn't lost on me. I even remember having a letter printed in Toofif where i appealed to my fellow Fulham supporters to get behind all the players no matter how bad it got. There didn't seem to be any point moaning. After all, Kelly Haag, Martin Ferney and Peter Baah were never going to be as good as George Cohen or Johnny Haynes, and if we wanted to see those players of that calibre again, then we'd have to get the best out of what we had.

So, how did i find myself shouting abuse at Parker towards the tail end of his third year with us?
Well, apart from the bad vibes around his Charlton and Chelsea days and the Bullard injury (in retrospect not his fault), he had captained us to our first relegation in twenty years. My main gripe though was his rumoured, fat, 3-year contract; which, when you've been raised on free transfers and tribunal players, and thinking £100,000 for Mike Conroy was extravagant (thank you Muddymans), then i guess the frugal side of you never goes away. To see such lack of value for money, after so many years of careful purchases (even under Fayed), it i hadn't really got used to such money being wasted. Was Parker at fault? Yes, probably a bit, but if the Khan regime had decided that Scott Parker was worth such a big contract, that's not really Parkers fault right? Scott Parker was just one of many signature frivolous purchases that we have come to expect now, but at the time he was one of few, and the only one left over after the Magath relegation cull. The lack of quality from Parker in those first seasons was accentuated by the fact that the purse strings had really been tightened under Kit Symons reign and there was no sign of that changing.

So, here i was shouting abuse at Parker, 70 minutes into a home game (some time in spring of that season), safe in the knowledge that no one would disagree with my assessment of his limitations (not that it should have mattered what anyone else thought). Nevertheless, i kept an eye on his play for good measure, to see how he faired, and to see if my abuse would be vindicated. Surprisingly, he did appear to improve significantly and saw out the rest of the game playing relatively well, perhaps even making me look slightly unreasonable to a small portion of casuals in the Hammersmith end, who noticed the ex England international.

Now, i'm definitely not now saying that i was wrong before that to extoll the virtues of always getting behind your own players during a game, religiously (i still think that way); but it did seem that on this rare occasion that giving Scotty a bit of stick did make him up his work rate and focus more. If my abuse did have any bearing on his performance in any way (as it seems to me it did), I'd love to have been able to claim that my decision was made because of some subconscious psyco-analytical skillset i possess; but the truth is that i was just at a point where i couldn't see how he could play any worse for any longer; so i just gave it a go. It remains the first and last time i have ever given abuse to a Fulham player. Although Berbatov tempted me many times.

Parker ended up playing well towards the end of that season; But still having a complete downer on him, I suggested to my cousin that he was only performing well to get a new contract, which he was duly awarded. However, the next season he came back and played well throughout, under the guidance of Jokanovic (which ultimately got us to the play-offs against Reading).

Fast forward to Brentford at Griffin Park earlier this season. We'd just lost 3 games on the trot. Parker is getting dogs abuse from our supporters in the away enclosure, but instead of making a hasty retreat off of the pitch to the sanctuary of the changing room, he rounds up all the players to get them to make an extended walk past all our supporters. Some players had almost left the pitch and are directed back by management to repeat the walk they'd already partially made. Parker leads the slow walk off, clapping the fans for their support whilst total vitriol is bestowed upon him. Dated pop/dance music from the ancient Griffin Park speaker system disguises the content a little, but you couldn't mask the body language of a lot of our fans. Some angry Fulham supporters turn their backs and walk off. Others continue, incensed even further that he'd have the audacity to show his face after such a poor performance. As the players walk off, Mitrovic pulls his shirt up and buries his face. I couldn't work out why Parker would do that at the time. It just seemed... well, deluded. Everyone wanted him gone. The chants during the game had said as much. There was such animosity and hatred towards him from the supporters on that terrace, that I still can't remember a time i've seen anything like it at Fulham. A Fulham supporting friend the next day even commented that he'd heard Parker was using the players as a sort of human shield to protect him.

Next game, Leeds at home. We beat them 2-1 and in the run-up to the COVID lockdown we pick up 70% of the points available to us in those 13 games. Over the course of the season, that form would give us a total of 95 points. We even knocked Villa out of the FA cup (before losing to Man City away).

What got me thinking of this again after yesterday? Well, apart from his seemingly deluded use of the word "exceptional" to describe our effort after the game, just before the game he also made what 'FoootballLeagueWorld' described as an "interesting" comment about the downside of there being no crowd at Elland Road:
"...the hostility of a stadium sometimes when you’re away from home is something that brings a siege mentality to a team"
Not an absurd comment to make. 'Backs to the wall' stuff to use the old cliche. People sometimes work well when they really have to fight for or against something. But from experience, some unique individuals only properly find themselves when it is 'backs to the wall'. Perhaps Scott Parker is one of them? How else would you explain the constant let downs during his tenure and then bouncing back strongly?

In my opinion, i still think he has enough about him to get us up and running again for a stab at the playoffs. I don't think anyone else has enough time to work out all our complex personalities (Ranieri NEVER worked it out, so careful what you wish for). All it takes is one spark to get going. Unfortunately, between the Brentford and Leeds games on this occasion, there wasn't enough time to address problems which probably came from malaise from our players during the lockdown. There are obviously deep-rooted problems in the mentality of a lot of our players, and i think Parker may have mentioned this around the time of the last Brentford defeat. A few too many who think they belong in the Premier League perhaps and this is a whole new season with too many immature players who need constant watching. In effect and it's like Barnsley away all over again.

Parker's job has always been to get us promoted. Let's see if he can fashion a team out of these players, who a lot of us deemed 'the best squad in the division'. It's hard to defend Parker, but perhaps he'll get things going again without the abuse on this occasion, not despite it.

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