Saturday, 7 February 2009

Hammering Out A Rhythm

On a busy day for West Ham United related articles- look what happens when Manchester United come to town- there is a nice little interview with Scott Parker in today's Telegraph that I couldn't fit in anywhere else. So I'm fitting it in here...

West Ham the winners as happy Scott Parker finds his rhythm
By Alan Smith

With the transfer window shut, Scott Parker can relax, at least in terms of his immediate future. West Ham made it clear that their most experienced midfielder was going nowhere, even though Manchester City waved a large wad of cash.

"I didn't see it coming," Parker explained this week. "Before I knew it, bang, the speculation was everywhere."

Yet unlike Craig Bellamy, who threw a strop, who insisted on leaving Upton Park when City's interest surfaced, this equable character proved far more conciliatory.

If he was not going to be allowed to join the oil-rich City revolution, he wanted reassurances that a club supposed to be in financial strife still harboured the ambitions that originally made him join.

"As soon as I was put in the picture about things here – because you hear the club need to sell – it was fine," he says.

"City is obviously a big club that's going places but I'm happy here. As long as West Ham were stable and the manager's views were the same as mine then it was OK."

Bellamy, of course, didn't quite see it like that.

"Yeah, that was a severe loss," Parker admits. "It's different circumstances as well. I'm sure Craig's were different to mine. I know people say there's no loyalty in football but that's just the way it is. It was a big opportunity for Craig and he felt he had to go. We just have to get on with it now."

It is a challenge that continues with the visit of in-form Manchester United on Sunday. A good job for West Ham that they are in decent nick, now playing attractive, winning football under Gianfranco Zola.

"It's obviously a tough game this weekend but you look at our fixtures after that and they're winnable. The way we're playing, the way we're organised, I think we can stay in the top half, maybe get in the top eight. That would be good for a season when the manager arrived after the start."

So what of Zola? Parker has played for some strong managers in his time, including Jose Mourinho during an unsuccessful stint at Chelsea. How does the Italian compare?

"Mourinho is the sort who draws a line that you know not to cross. It's the same here with Franco. There's definitely an edge there that you don't mess with. At the same time he gains respect from the players through how he was as a player and how he is as a person. He's never going to be one for throwing tea cups around but when he speaks, you listen. As a manager, that's a good knack to have."

Parker should know. At 28, this modest lad from Lambeth, reared through the system at Charlton, brings great experience to the party after that spell at Stamford Bridge (hindered by a metatarsal break) and a more fulfilling time at Newcastle where, as captain, he enhanced his reputation with some stirring displays.

"Chelsea didn't work out. The injury killed me in the end, just when I was starting to turn the corner, getting a little run in the side. I went to Newcastle and contrary to what people say about not settling in the North East, me and my family absolutely loved it up there. Then a new manager comes in [Sam Allardyce], has different ideas and sells me."

So from the Geordie soap opera to EastEnders in meltdown, that is if you believe all those cash-strapped stories about the Icelandic owners. Parker, however, prefers to concentrate on what he can control.

"The stuff you read in the papers – if it can't influence you as a player, you don't take much notice. If you get dragged down by something that might never happen, and there's a lot of rubbish written about this club, then you'd be a nervous wreck."

Mind you, Parker is no longer the sort to totally immerse himself in the sport. In fact, the following thoughts offer an interesting insight into how some modern-day players tend to handle the pressure.

"When I was younger, football was the be-all-and-end-all", he explains. "I used to watch it on tele all the time. But I never watch it any more. Never. You get to a point where you need something else. It's such an intense world. You pick up the paper and football is everywhere. If your mind is constantly on it, I think you can just get tired of it all."

Especially for someone who, from the age of 14, attended the Football association's now-defunct National School of Excellence at Lilleshall.

"I suppose football got very serious for me at that age; even at 13 when I was going up for trials and worrying whether I was going to get in. From then until now it's been full on so, yeah, I do like to get away from it. I don't want this to come across as me not liking football because I do still love it, but you do need other interests."

For Parker, three sons under six, plus a bit of golf, are more than enough to keep him going when he is not putting in a shift at the base of West Ham's midfield.

"For me, when my family is happy everything else runs smoothly," he concludes. "Any stresses outside football affect me on the pitch. Some players can handle that, with all sorts going on in their life, but I'm the sort of personality who needs a routine, some stability."

West Ham fans must hope he will always have that in their manor.

Elsewhere, footballers and the arts are not often paired together. The laddish nature of the sport is regarded as the antithesis of high culture, yet West Ham United striker Carlton Cole is adamant on bucking that trend and is sponsoring a 12-year-old piano prodigy.

Nuron Mukumiy is ever-grateful to Carlton Cole for backing him financially so that he is able to participate in a competition in Germany. "Carlton Cole, I am very thankful to him," Mukumiy told Sky Sports. "He is going to help me."

Cole said, "He touched my heart really. Me and my agent came up with the idea of sponsoring him as he is really talented and I'd like to get involved with under-privileged kids in that area."

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