I've got fire in my belly again, says new Bruges boss Scott Parker
EXCLUSIVE: ‘I’ve got the fire back in my belly’: Dumped by Bournemouth after 9-0 Anfield mauling, Scott Parker is back in the dugout in Belgium after shock appointment as Club Bruges boss… as he insists he is ‘not scared’ by the daunting task
- The new manager is relishing the ‘amazing opportunity’ at Club Brugge
- He has immersed himself in the job, sleeping at their coastal headquarters
- Parker and his young team will take on Benfica in Champions League last 16
- He lost his first game in charge but is looking forward to the task in Belgium
Before Scott Parker can talk about drive, first there is a telling smile and a revelation about driving his family mad.
Parker, understandably, is in high spirits. It is two weeks since Club Bruges rang to reveal they wanted him to be their new manager. The Belgians, whose pedigree is rich, were prepared to give the 42-year-old time to think but no thinking time was needed.
Here, in his words, was ‘an amazing opportunity’ and nobody would argue with that. Four months on from his brutal sacking by Bournemouth, Parker is in charge of a young team who, in four weeks, square up to Benfica in the Champions League last 16.
New manager Scott Parker (above) is relishing the ‘amazing opportunity’ at Club Brugge
‘We know not many English managers venture abroad,’ he says, as we talk at the impressive Belfius basecamp. ‘I couldn’t wait for the different challenge, the different culture. I’m not scared of it one bit, it excites me massively.’
Few are more thrilled than his wife, Carly, and their four sons Frankie, 19, Murphy, 18, Sonny, 15, and nine-year-old Rafa. After his exit from Bournemouth, Parker found himself on full-time dad duties, ferrying them to weekend football games and pottering around the house.
‘You commit so much to football, the family just fits around you, really,’ he says. ‘That’s happened for large parts of my life. I moved around a bit, my wife and kids never really had a say. They just follow you around and the commitment they make is massive.
Parker’s first match in charge last weekend ended in a 3-1 defeat at league leaders Genk
‘You feel guilty at times, so it was nice to do some things I’d never really done. I drove them mad, I’m pretty sure! My wife was like ‘will you get back to work!’. It was amazing but when football is in your blood and is all you have known, when an opportunity comes you do it again.
‘That’s what I’m excited about and that’s what I’m bringing them back to, this football world they love as well.’
The Parker clan will be in the stands on Sunday when Brugge square up to Anderlecht and it would be just the tonic, after his first match last weekend ended in a 3-1 defeat at league leaders Genk, if he could mastermind a win against their bitter rivals.
Parker and his young team will square up to Benfica in the Champions League last 16
He has immersed himself in the job, sleeping most nights at their coastal headquarters rather than decamping to a hotel, and the immediate impression within a squad that includes former Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet is that Parker will get it right.
There is a determination to grasp this chance but, also, a hunger to expunge the memory of last summer. His final game with Bournemouth was a 9-0 pounding at Liverpool, a 90 minutes he described as the worst of a career that is now in its fourth decade.
In the aftermath, as he tried to grapple with what happened, he made it clear ‘there would be more days like this’ if the Cherries did not invest significantly in their squad. Seventy-two hours later he was jettisoned, so does he harbour any regrets? ‘The words I said were very, very true,’ he says. ‘I wouldn’t want to go into specific details but what I’d say is that I worked pretty tirelessly to get an objective done for Bournemouth and we probably did it a little bit ahead of what was expected.
‘I want to win. I want to be successful and I want to try everything I can to get us in a position where that is possible. So no regrets at all, really.
Parker was axed by Bournemouth following the 9-0 mauling by Liverpool last August
‘The job we did there, along with everyone else, was an amazing one. But I’ve been in football a long time and we all know it can be volatile.’
It most certainly can. Parker played for 20 managers, including caretakers, on a path that took him from Charlton to Fulham via spells with Norwich, Chelsea, Newcastle, West Ham and Tottenham. This is a man whose progress will be watched closely by the FA and it will be fascinating to see how Bruges develop on his watch. The managerial hangover is gone.
‘When you are proud, like I certainly am, you want to win and be successful,’ says Parker, whose backroom team is made up of his trusted allies Matt Well, Rob Birch and Jonathan Hill. ‘Sometimes there are many bumps in the road, whether you are a player or a coach and manager.
‘I had offers after leaving Bournemouth but I needed to step away. When I got the call (from Bruges), how they sold it was pretty special. The fire came back in my belly. It was the feeling of ‘I can’t wait to get going!’, so let’s go for it.’
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