When Charlton fans travel to Craven Cottage tonight, special attention will likely be given to one man in particular.
Despite the fact it’s been over a decade since the two parted ways, our match against Fulham will mark just the third reacquaintance between Charlton and Scott Parker.
The last meeting came back in March 2006, Parker’s only appearance at the Valley in an opposition shirt. It was with some relish that the home crowd created a cacophony of boos and jeers whenever Newcastle’s captain was on the ball that day.
Similar treatment is likely to be handed out from some Charlton fans next week, but I won’t be one of them.
Just like you, I’ve heard that Parker’s behaviour towards the club that gave him his chance that fateful January transfer window resembled a spoilt child. I remember a furious Alan Curbishley saying it left a “bad taste in the mouth”. And believe me, I don’t need reminding of how our strong league position that season slowly slipped away following the move.
In 2006 the wounds were still relatively raw. But enough time has passed and so much worse has been inflicted upon our club since. Surely it’s time to let the bitterness rest? If Curbishley can forgive Parker, why can’t we? He was not the first youngster to be seduced by the bright lights, and he certainly wasn’t the last.
I’ve always found it hard to hold a grudge against Parker. If he was a prima donna, a showboater, someone who had slagged off the club, it might be different. But there’s just too much to admire about the way he conducts himself both on and off the pitch. By all accounts, the lad from Lambeth is one of the game’s good guys.
I can’t have been the only Charlton fan who was secretly pleased when the midfielder was named 2011 player of the year by the Football Writers’ Association, when he was one of the best performers in a high-flying Spurs side or when he was named England captain.
It was a belated vindication of everything Charlton fans knew Parker was capable of much earlier in his career. Despite the accolades and achievements he’s earned since, I’m still not convinced his later days as a stoic defensive midfielder were superior to the swashbuckling performances of his youth.
Watching Parker at the Valley was always a thrilling, blockbuster experience. With his fearless commitment, unstoppable energy and street smarts beating from the heart of our side, you genuinely felt like we could take on anyone.
We shouldn’t dwell on his departure and forget everything that came before it. Parker was the most exciting product for a generation. Even after Jonjo Shelvey and Diego Poyet, I’d argue we’re yet to see another like him.
Think not of him not holding up a Chelsea shirt, but of him destroying Chelsea’s midfield in one of our Charlton’s most cherished victories.
Yes, we went through a messy divorce. But boy, it was beautiful while it lasted.