Scott Parker is no stranger to individual accolades. The three-time Hammer of the Year, PFA Young Player of the Year winner and one-time Football Writers Player of the Year recipient. But he was probably hoping to avoid his latest accolade; the winner of The Sack Race 2022/23.
After guiding Bournemouth to an opening day victory against Aston Villa, Parker’s side lost three in a row to Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool by an aggregate score of 16-0. The 9-0 drubbing on Merseyside led Parker to declare there was ‘no denying’ his side were ‘under equipped for this level’. And it was these comments, rather than the defeats, that led to his unexpected dismissal.
Were these comments ill advised? Probably. Parker was obviously emotional and hurting after the humiliation his side had just endured. He may have been better served to keep the media waiting whilst he composed himself and considered the wording of his thoughts. It is, after all, never a good idea to point the finger of blame at Damocles whilst he wields the sword.
But were they true? Almost definitely. Bournemouth spent just £24 million in the summer on new signings with none really screaming Premier League quality. By comparison Fulham spent £55m adding Leno, Shane Duffy, Dan James, Palhinha and Premier League and Champions League winner Willian, amongst others, to their ranks.
Nottingham Forest spent (admittedly a bit of an outlier in terms of sensible recruitment) £145m on 28 new players, bringing in a blend of Premier League experience and players from the other top tiers from around Europe. And whilst the desire of those in charge at Bournemouth to run a sustainable club that lives within its means is admirable, it is unlikely to leave you well equipped for the step up to top flight football.
But then perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. When a manager who has won the Champions League, Super Cup and World Club Cup, and finished runner up in both domestic cup competitions in a little over a year and a half can be sacked – then what hope is there for any manager?
Thomas Tuchel’s departure from Chelsea, with 60% win rate and three trophies added to the cabinet at Stamford Bridge, really does illustrate that no one is safe. And it does raise the question of whether David Moyes does have enough credit to withstand much more of our protracted start to the season.
So far it is only the voices of those who moaned about Moyes even when we were in good form that are calling for his head, but how long does the excellent progress of the last two seasons keep others from joining the disconcerted?
Many of us can accept that the bedding in of new signings and an attempt to move from a counter attacking side to a team more comfortable with sustained possession, may take some time. But if we don’t start climbing the table soon, how long do memories of Lyon and Seville keep the wolves from his door?
As for Parker, maybe a stint as a second in command is the required course of action. The former number 8 seemingly swapped his kit for knitwear in the blink of an eye. Hanging up his boots in 2017, he had brief spells as an under 18 coach at Spurs and a coach under Jokanovic and Ranieri at Fulham before being given the box seat in February of 2019.
His promotions from the Championship with first Fulham in 2020 and Bournemouth in 2022 show there is a decent manager in there. It is a notoriously difficult division to navigate your way out of, especially in a Covid-interrupted campaign as he endured in his first full season as the man in charge. His Fulham side were unfortunate to be relegated despite a valiant effort and some impressive performances. And his sacking from Bournemouth, even if it can be warranted from a boardroom level, still feels a tad knee jerk and undeserved. But it will raise questions of how cut out for top flight management he is.
Being a number two at a Premier League club may help him better grasp what’s required at that level, learning the tricks of the trade from a man who has seen and done more. There would, in truth, be few better candidates to provide this insight than David Moyes – but how well a Parker return to the Club would be received is anyone’s guess.