At some Premier League clubs it seems they have more captains than armbands. Rio Ferdinand, for example, had international captaincy and was not even deputy at Manchester United. This has not been the case at Tottenham for a long time.
Ledley King wore the armband by virtue of being the best player at the club and playing at the back. He led by example rather than vocally, meaning we didn’t have anyone else.
Then came Scott Parker. His arrival was not greeted with universal joy, but the incumbent Footballer of the Year started at Spurs in scintillating form and was one of the driving forces behind our best half season in Premier League history.
Things started going off the rails in January and in May we had nothing to show for our efforts. The squad was stretched thin and Parker, an action hero unwilling to give anything short of his all, got tired and sloppy. His presence went from being the catalyst for victory to a reason for defeat.
After the mess that was England’s 2010 World Cup campaign, Parker emerged as the answer to one of England’s problem positions, but he came home from the European Championship having been schooled by Andrea Pirlo and dismissed as die-hard English workhorse unable to keep hold of the ball rather than an exceptional midfielder suffering from burn-out.
Tottenham started this season without him and, domestically and in Europe, haven’t played well enough. There is something intangible missing. Spurs need a leader.
With King having retired in the summer, Parker out injured and Michael Dawson considered not good enough, Andre Villas-Boas turned to William Gallas to be his representative on the pitch. That he picks Gallas at all is baffling, the Frenchman having been one of our worst players last season, but to give him the armband is even more strange.
AVB looked at his squad and decided the two-time Premier League champion, two months his senior, was the right choice for captaincy. That his experience would be pivotal. But Gallas never inspired anyone in his life. He doesn’t carry junior team members and the team doesn’t work better as a unit because he’s in it. Gallas will be remembered as the man that sat in the centre-circle sulking while Arsenal’s title challenge fell apart around him. That or when he threatened to score own goals if Chelsea continued to play him at full-back.
Perhaps the desire for seniority also explains the prolonged presence of old man Friedel at the expense of the superior Hugo Lloris.
Spurs would be top if goals in the last 10 minutes of games were not counted. This hypothetical statistic has little relevance to the real world, but it does indicate that when mental toughness is needed to get us over the finish line we’ve been sorely lacking someone to drum up some spirit and ensure robustness.
In football terms, there is an issue. Sandro is an exceptional footballer and has been one of our best performers this season. Him and Parker have rarely been good together, but the qualities they both possess must be utilised.
It is up to AVB to find a system that fits them both. A 4-2-3-1 with Moussa Dembele just ahead of them would make for a midfield packed with raw power. Too much perhaps, but the flair comes from the wings with Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon.
Yesterday Parker made his first appearance of the season, with a couple of stoppage time minutes of against Swansea. There are 21 league games left (as well as shots at the FA Cup and the Europa League) and we are far better for having him among our number and wearing the armband.
Parker back in a Spurs shirt is a thing to savour. With his gelled hair, narrow shoulders and effeminate jog, leading us to victory.