An emotional Scott Parker expressed regret that his father had not witnessed his first competitive appearance for England in more than four years but said that he had felt compelled to play on for club and country in his memory.
Mick Parker passed away the night before Parker's West Ham United played Tottenham Hotspur earlier this month, having failed to recover from major surgery after a long illness. Last month, Parker dedicated his goal against Liverpool to his father, and he chose to play on after his death.
The 30-year-old midfielder was arguably England's most impressive player against Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday and he earned praise from team‑mates and management staff.
"It has been a tough week," said Parker, who at one stage was excused training with the national squad, as he came to terms with his father's death. "He had been ill for a long while and passed away on that Friday," said Parker, who is a doubt for Ghana game due to shoulder and calf injuries. "I have been dealing with that in my own way, trying to stay strong in my own way, and I suppose the one disappointing fact about the Wales game for me was that [my father] wasn't here to see me play for England, but I'm sure he was looking down and was very proud.
"I'd been with him on the Friday and then met up with the [West Ham] team in the hotel ahead of the Tottenham match. He passed away late that night, so I went back to the hospital. He would have wanted me to have played on the Saturday. I suppose it was the one time I've gone out for a game and, whether we won, lost or drew, or whether I played well or poorly, it didn't really matter. I needed to be out there for him. It sounds clichéd, but that's the reason I played."
The midfielder, who has been in inspirational form at West Ham this season, on Saturday made his first competitive international start since the Euro 2008 qualifying defeat in Croatia in the autumn of 2006. He excelled in a central role that allowed Jack Wilshere and Frank Lampard greater freedom. Parker – whose first four caps were won under four managers – conceded that he had to take this chance to impress if he was to be a part of Fabio Capello's long-term plans, having endured life on the fringes of the national team for too long.
"At times it has been a bit disappointing for me, but I have just cracked on with it and seen what happens," he said. "One thing I've learnt in my career is that, when the opportunity comes, you need to grab it with two hands.
"If you go back through my career, whether it be when I went out on loan at Norwich and I came back and Alan Curbishley put me in the team at Charlton, there have been occasions like that. It was my one chance to get in the team and I took it.
"That's the way it is for me. That's the way it always seems to be. I thought about that before kick‑off on Saturday: I knew I had to take my chance in this game, for definite."
Wilshere said that Capello had shown his squad re-runs of Barcelona's recent Champions League defeat of Arsenal, in an attempt to illustrate how he wanted them to pressurise the Wales team into conceding possession. On Saturday the tactic proved spectacularly successful – particularly in the first half.
"We tried to press like they do, high up the pitch," said the 19-year-old Arsenal midfielder.
"Barcelona are the best at it in the world and we have to learn from teams like that. It wasn't painful for me to watch – at my age I am always learning and I can only learn from players like that."
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