“I’m not too Small for England” – Paul Parker

The following article appeared in a football periodical in 1987:

‘Paul Parker believes he faces a tall order to convince Bobby Robson that he fits the bill as an England centre-half.

Parker, a diminutive five foot seven inches in height, has earned rave reviews for his central defensive performances since joining Queen’s Park Rangers for £250,000 from Third Division neighbours Fulham in the close season.

Yet while his one-time England Under-21 partner Tony Adams has broken into the full international side, Parker is still waiting for the call.

He says: “I’ve always found it natural to win balls in the air, but some people are still not convinced I am tall enough to play centre-half. I think Bobby Robson could be among them.”

Parker believes his best chance of breaking into the squad at present would be as cover at full-back, his original position at Fulham. But ironically it doesn’t look as if QPR manager Jim Smith has any plans to use the 23-year-old in that role.

Smith says: “We always intended to use him as a sweeper or central defender. His speed makes him ideal for the man-to-man system we are using. I feel he is better suited to that than getting forward and crossing balls as a full-back.”

Parker has had a point to prove ever since West Ham rejected him as a teenager, saying he was too small to make the grade. His First Division displays are now helping him get his message across.

He says: “I think I have convinced the manager I can play in central defence. In fact, he moans now if I don’t win balls in the air.”

“When we played Everton, I was worried he might bring in John O’Neill, our Northern Ireland international, for his extra height against Graeme Sharp and Wayne Clarke, who are both at least six foot. Luckily he stuck with me and I hope I proved I could handle them.”

Smith has no doubts about Parker’s influence in a defence, which conceded just two goals in their opening seven league games.

“He has done an outstanding job for us,” says the ‘Bald Eagle’,” so good that in those seven matches two of the strikers he marked, Clarke and Gordon Hobson, were substituted before the end.

“Paul thinks he should have been in the First Division two years ago, and he is full of enthusiasm to get out and prove himself.”

Smith is reluctant to push Parker’s England claim at such an early stage, and the player himself admits he is still learning.

“In the First Division you have to concentrate all the time,” he says. “You can’t take any liberties.”

“Against Derby I gave Phil Gee a yard from a free kick early on and he scored. He didn’t get another kick for the rest of the match, but it still didn’t make up for my mistake. I learned from that and it won’t happen again.”

Parker is realistic about his immediate international prospects – he tips team-mate Terry Fenwick as a more likely candidate.

“I know Bobby Robson is unlikely to change his squad between now and the European Championship finals, but if I can keep going as I am at the moment, then who knows, perhaps I will get a mention.”

Certainly if pint-sized Parker continues his outstanding early-season form, it will be a tall order for Bobby Robson to ignore him, and that’s about the long and the short of it.’

Paul eventually made his full England debut against Albania at Wembley on 26th April 1989.

Steve Russell

2 thoughts on ““I’m not too Small for England” – Paul Parker

  1. I remember his first tackle at Upton Park first day of the season. Tony Cottee had burst into the box and Paul came from nowhere slid in and put it out. You knew then he was going to be a bit special.

  2. would walk into any side in the Premier today and would be first to be picked for England too. When you see the hoof tactics that the majority of English defenders adopt today, it makes you weep for the likes of Parker, Todd and Moore

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