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Sunday, 09 May 2010

England: Barry’s injury could be good news for West Ham’s Scott Parker

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Manchester City midfielder Gareth Barry faces a race against time to be fit for the World Cup in South Africa and his ankle injury is the latest in a long line of problems to have hit Fabio Capello’s plans.

Barry has become an England regular over the past few years thanks to his partnership with Steven Gerrard and the balance his left foot brings to the team. However, if Barry fails to recover in time there’s no need to worry as there is a ready-made replacement waiting in the wings to fill his boots . . . West Ham United’s captain marvel Scott Parker.

The former Charlton Athletic, Chelsea and Newcastle United midfielder has been the only West Ham player to have emerged from this season with any credit at all and if anyone deserves a late call up to the England set-up it is Parker.

Tenacious, strong, resilient and disciplined, I shudder to think what would have happened to the Hammers this season without their inspirational number eight. Parker puts his body on the line every time he crosses the white line and he’s the kind of guy you would love to be stuck in the trenches with.  

His last-ditch and crunching tackles are legendary in the East End but he isn’t just a break-up play merchant, he’s a top class footballer. He knows exactly when to deliver the ball, gets up in support of the attack and has the strength to shield the ball from opponents.

I’ve heard some commentators suggest that Manchester United’s out of favour Michael Carrick and Tottenham’s Tom Huddlestone could get the nod to replace Barry ahead of Parker but what more does the West Ham general have to do to prove his worth to an international boss? Sure Carrick and Huddlestone can play some Hollywood passes and have experience of playing in Europe but when was the last time you saw either of them risking a boot in the face in order to head the ball away while sprawled out on the ground like Parker did against Everton recently?

As for the other suggestion of Owen Hargreaves, come off it. The poor guy has played barely 30 seconds for Manchester United over the past 21 months. How is he going to be match fit to play against some of the best players on the biggest stage of them all? Sure he is a fantastic player and, like Parker, gives his all on the pitch, but after undergoing surgery on a series of career-threatening injuries it would be a massive gamble to take Hargreaves.

West Ham boss Ginafranco Zola and the two Davids don’t appear to agree on many things but they all hold Parker up in high esteem. Parker, 29, has always been on the periphery of the England set-up but this injury setback to Barry could well be the opening he has been waiting for.

Capello has always insisted that he would pick players on form. It will be interesting to see whether Parker makes it into the Italian’s provisional World Cup squad which is announced on Tuesday.

· Calling all England fans. Who would you take to the World Cup if Gareth Barry was unable to regain fitness in time? How impressed have you been with Parker this season? What more does he need to do to win an England call up? Out of Carrick, Huddlestone, Hargreaves and Parker, who would you choose and why? Whatever your view I’d love to hear from you.

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Colin Illingworth



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