Parker's desperate to make a mark in the Cup he loves and add to his medal collection
22:45 GMT, 26 January 2013
06:45 GMT, 27 January 2013
Scott Parker, 32 and with just one League Cup winners’ medal to show for 16 years in football’s top flight, insists that he is one player who still takes the FA Cup seriously.
‘I love the FA Cup as a competition,’ said the Spurs midfielder as he prepared for today’s fourth-round trip to face Leeds United. ‘It’s something I’m desperate to win.’
Parker’s solitary piece of silverware was won with Chelsea in 2005, though he actually missed the final in Cardiff through injury. Chelsea won the Premier League the following year but Parker missed out on a winner’s medal because he had not played in the minimum 10 matches.
Cup of joy: Scott Parker is desperate to win the FA Cup
Last year’s losing FA Cup semi-final, playing for Spurs against Chelsea, was as good as it gets, he says, which is why he is taking this afternoon’s fourth-round trip to Leeds very seriously indeed.
‘That semi-final defeat still rankles and I know I don’t have too long left to do it,’ admitted Parker, just back from a five-month lay-off following an achilles operation in the summer.
‘I understand why a top-four finish in the League is the priority for a club like Tottenham, but for me the FA Cup is just as important. Within three or four games you’re right in the business end of the competition and you can taste Wembley.
‘Maybe four or five years ago the competition was beginning to fizzle out a bit, with clubs sending weakened teams out to play, but this isn’t the case so much anymore and I, for one, am pleased about that.
‘There’s nothing better to play in or watch than a good old-fashioned English cup-tie between the big boys and a team from a lower division trying to seize the moment. The Premier League is great, of course, but my early memories of football are all to do with the FA Cup.’
Hard time: Parker won the a League Cup winners medal while at Chelsea
A lifelong Spurs fan, Parker’s earliest recollection of the FA Cup was watching his beloved team lose the 1987 final to Coventry.
‘It’s not a happy memory,’ he says. ‘My favourite player at the time was Nico Claesen, but he was on the bench that day and came on too late for my liking. Then I watched them beat Forest in 1991 when Gazza was up to his tricks.
‘Even though I was far too young at the time to remember Spurs winning back-to-back Cups in the early Eighties, I did end up knowing all the words to Chas and Dave’s Tottenham songs, and had them as records.’
Snow joke: Parker training at Spurs ahead of the Leeds game
Being the football romantic that he is, Parker is also full of admiration for today’s opponents, Leeds, and recalls one happy memory nearer the start of his long career.
‘I scored an injury-time winner at Elland Road for Charlton after a mazy run,’ he says. ‘I don’t score many so that one has stuck. Some of the foreign lads in the Spurs team today may not understand how big a club Leeds still are.
‘They’ll look at the Championship table and not understand, but they will when they run out at Elland Road. There’s no way a team of Leeds’s stature should be where they are. To me they are still a massive, massive club, and you can expect the ground to be rocking.
‘Occasionally in the third and fourth round you can turn up and win being at 70 or 80 per cent. Well you can’t at Leeds. We’ll have to be at our best.
‘It will be a tough game. Their manager, Neil Warnock, will get them going and if we fall short of our best Leeds will win, which is why the television cameras are there. They sense there could be an upset. We’ll have to make sure it doesn’t happen.’