It's not been the easiest of returns to the first team for Spurs' Scott Parker. But with a season-wrecking injury to one of their leading men, it's time the former FWA Player of the Year took centre stage again.
There's something reassuringly old-fashioned about Scott Parker as a footballer; the unflappable side-parting, the perma-grass-stained knees, the affection for bone-shuddering challenges. If you want a midfielder to fight tooth and nail for the cause; want them to exude a plucky wartime spirit that'll mean they'll bomb eighty-yards to prevent a throw-in or just put the whizzers up some Young Harry Flash, then Private Parker is without question your man.
Indeed, the England international was perhaps Spurs' best player last season. While it wouldn't take great imagination to work out 'Arry Redknapp's thought process in recruiting Lambeth's finest (trains well, no trouble, great lad- t'riffic) it was certainly one of his more opportune purchases as the North London club's manager. For a fair portion of Tottenham's quest to get back amongst Europe's elite, Parker barely put a foot out of step. His midfield partnership with Luka Modrić was in line with the League's finest and for every ounce of the Croatian's guile and technical brilliance; Scott had equal measure in industry and commitment.
Sadly for both club and employee, by the final months of the 2011/12 season, Parker was a husk of his once exuberant self. The downside of being a real-life Action Man- apart from the temptation for your manager to use you until the battery runs out- is that it rather plays havoc with your wellbeing. And, on top of a physically draining season- starting every game of a European Championship campaign is far from the quickest route to recovery.
It was with little shock, then, that by the end of July- after England's habitual penalty shoot-out exit- Parker was done-busted: an Achilles injury that would keep him out until the end of the year. And by the time he was fit again, Spurs' midfield would have said Olá to a new Sheriff.
Now, though, with Sandro himself sidelined for the immediate future, there's a chance for Scott Parker to temporarily reclaim the yard. Unless AVB intends to give more game time to young Jake Livermore (which, for the time being, he shouldn't) he's the only midfield enforcer at the club- and by definition: indispensible to Tottenham.
Since his return to the side, Parker's looked understandably rusty. Never one you'd believe to ease back into things gently, he still manages to tear around the pitch like a stiff-jawed lunatic. Although this is classic Parker in many respects, the sheer impulsiveness of his forays means there's often some rather large holes left in his wake; those areas between midfield and defence which Sandro usually has sewn up like Mexican border patrol. If Villas-Boas can curb his enthusiasm somewhat -maybe keep the tibia-chewing tackles to a minimum and work more on his positional intelligence - then he'll be a vital component to this Spurs side looking for Champions League qualification. Private Parker, the stage is yours.