West Ham and England midfielder Scott Parker speaks to FourFourTwo back in October 2000, when he was at Charlton Athletic.
As a schoolboy, and having already starred on our TV screens juggling a ball in an ad for McDonald's, Charlton's Scott Parker was the subject of a substantial bid from Spurs. He declined, remaining loyal to the club that he had been at since the age of nine. "They had a good youth policy, they were bringing a lot of youngsters through, and I thought I'd have my best chances here," he recalls.
He was right. Charlton manager Alan Curbishley felt Parker, a Lilleshall graduate, was ready for the senior side at just 16, so towards the end of the1997/98 season he made the trip to Bury's Gigg Lane. "I came back from Lilleshall and went straight into the reserves, playing about five games for them and suddenly I was in the first team squad. It was a huge jump."
Parker took the jump in his stride and soon found himself in the Premiership after Charlton's incredible play-off final victory over Sunderland that same season. Despite Charlton failing to stay in the Premiership, Parker views that year as an ideal learning curve for himself and the club, and hopes both can take those lessons into this season's campaign. "The management will have learnt from their mistakes last time, and the players realise what they have to do better."
Parker played in only four Premiership games that season, but competing against the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal was an incredible experience. "They give you time," he recalls of the Premiership, "but when you have the ball you have to pull something out of the top drawer. It was hard, but great learning." Parker wants a spot in Charlton's midfield, and a chance to put all he has learnt into practice, "I've been a pro at the club for four years and doing all I can to get into the side," he says. "But it's up to one man, and that's Alan Curbishley and whether he gives me a chance." After scoring his first goal against QPR in March he feels more part of the side, "I felt I'd contributed to the team rather than just coming on as a sub," he says.
This could be a springboard season for both club and player, and Parker hopes his contribution will play a key role in Charlton staying in the top flight.
Interview: Leo Moynihan. From the October 2000 issue of FourFourTwo.