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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Paul Parker interview part 2

copyright Red News

RN: Lee Sharpe mentioned in his book that Roy Keane was quite a piss taker in his early days, and used to take the mick out of you. And you say he arrived and he was ‘brash’. When did you first start to see the change in Keane?
PP: I didn’t really see the change as such because I wasn’t at the club when Roy changed. I just knew Roy as Roy... RN: Who was Roy then?
PP: Roy was just a lad. He’d just go out, Roy would drink the same as everyone else, Roy would sometimes lose his head over silly things and you had to calm him down a bit. But that was his mentality. He loved going out with the players but he didn’t like people he didn’t know. Roy likes his own people around him. Anybody who he doesn’t know, who came in, you’d have to tell Roy who it was and why they were there. ‘They’re a friend of X. A good friend of Y’. People couldn’t poke their nose in a conversation, come across and say ‘can I have your autograph?’. Roy had to see them asking 4 or 5 of us before, before they got to him. He needed that. He’s very shy. He didn’t like people jumping in. Roy’s reaction if someone jumps in at him and says: ‘Can you do this?’, he would say: “Who are you?”. And he wasn’t being rude, he just had that bit about him.
RN: Do you think that’s why he drank, which he mentions in his own book, to get this other side of him out, a more assertive side?
PP: I think that was... It’s an easy excuse to make when it’s drink related but Roy was a very, very shy person. I don’t think anyone would ever believe that but he is. Roy was a great bloke and people looking at him now and saying this and that about him... To be honest, I saw Tony Adams a few weeks ago. And me and Tony lived in the same town, grew up through football, he was at Fulham initially with me before he moved to Arsenal. And we grew up together. Tony lived in the same place and we drank together. He was at Arsenal, I was at QPR. We drank in the same place where I live in Billericay and then he realised his problems, he stopped drinking, became tee-total, admitted his problems. Now I saw him the other day; a completely different man. You would never believe that we have known each other from such a young age. Because once you go that way and decide to do that, you have to completely change your ways and cut away. You can’t go back to knowing people and getting all pally because you don’t really want to - because you think they might take you back to where you were. So you have to cut off. So Roy’s change is part of a pattern that those people have to follow. And people have to accept that and not pull faces and respect what those people are going through and what they have had to do to change their lives. And Roy’s done it for his families sake and the people that are benefiting are the right people - his family.
RN: Do you think that’s why he became more intense on the pitch. Was he a ranter and raver when you were there?
PP: Always! Roy rants and raves, he used to scream at you when you used to have five players around trying to kick shite out of you but Roy would be on the other side of them saying ‘give me the ball!’. And you’re fighting to try and keep hold of it! If you lost the ball or whatever, Roy would have a go at you - about why you didn’t give it to him. And you’d look at him and you’d think ‘don’t get in an argument’, because you’re not going to win an argument with Roy. But he wanted the ball so much, that you couldn’t even bother arguing because that man had such desire and so much belief in his own ability it was absolutely incredible.
RN: You say every team needs someone like that?
PP: You’ve got to. I was very, very fortunate that I played for a team where there was 8 or 9 of them on the pitch who all had belief in their own ability out there. They all wanted the ball and it made my game so easy because at QPR I was seen as just a defender - and I wasn’t bad at it. But I went to Manchester United and it added a little bit extra to my game. Because I was never asked to go forward. As far as I was concerned, corner or anything I was told, ‘you mark X, get on the halfway line, we need you at the back there because you’re quick’. People talk about how well I jumped but never once did QPR or Fulham ever allow me to go forward, to go for a corner. Yet they wanted me to go and mark the biggest man on the pitch, defensively, yet I was never allowed to go up for a corner, which seemed strange, maybe they knew my prowess in the opposing penalty box!It seemed strange that I couldn’t go up and attack a ball.
RN: Were you happy with the right back role. I remember seeing you play at Old Trafford at centre back when you had Peter Davenport in your pocket. When you signed, I actually thought you’d signed for a central defending role?
PP: To be honest when I signed I never even went into any conversation about: ‘where are you going to play me?”. Maybe I was naive but I just wanted to sign for Manchester United and worry about it after. And after seeing Brucey and Pally I knew it. I think the Boss looked at me as a replacement for Brucey. All of a sudden Brucey - the way he was - saw a bit of a challenge and stepped up another gear. So he placed me at right-back and that was the first time I actually played there for a long, long time as a full back. Before that I’d finished up at Fulham at centre-half, at QPR I was a centre-half or a sweeper. So I had to learn to become a full-back. Which seems strange for someone 5 foot 7 tall to learn to become a full back! But I did, that’s what I had to do, learn a new position, even stranger learning at the biggest club in the country and a side that needed to win the Championship.
RN: You complimented Kanchelskis. But if he had a bad game you were in the shit?
PP: Oh, I had so much to do. But it suited me. I didn’t mind it. Never did I ever scream ‘Oi, Andrei, come back and mark’ because I knew whatever happens, if Andrei had the ball he’d take 2 or 3 people with him anyway. Andrei made my life easy as much as maybe I made his life easy. I think it made my life easy having someone like Andrei in front of me.
RN: Did you get on well with him?
PP: Everyone got on well with him. Andrei was a likable rogue. He had his own manner about him. He was just like a typical, what you saw, as a Russian. You’d think to yourself: ‘there’s a devious side to him, a KGB side to him’. And he loved mentioning it all the time, he’d come out and say things. He was mad, absolutely mad! Along Chester Road he kept getting done on the speed cameras all the time. He didn’t bother paying them. That was Andrei. He came across and he didn’t have a care in the world, just wanted to play football.
RN: Were you surprised when he left?
PP: That’s a story that I’d really love to get the end of. I think only one person will tell you the truth and that would be the manager. People have got their own ideas but it seemed a very, very strange move to leave Manchester United for Everton. It just seemed very strange.
RN: Your relationship with Fergie, did you ever cross swords?
PP: No, maybe there were a few issues. When he saw I wasn’t doing my job right on the park, maybe I answered him back once when I should have known better because you never answer him back. Maybe I did something wrong off the field, which one of his big things is: ‘You represent Manchester United. Don’t let me or Manchester United down or there’s trouble’. Which in fact is the unwritten rule. The one thing about him is he never bears grudges unless you have done something to him personally or affected Manchester United, embarrassed the club, then obviously that is when your time is up. I still go and see him as much as possible. People can call it creeping but I call it keeping myself in with the right person. He’s been as good as gold to me. He did the foreword for the book. The only other person I think I would have asked other than him would have been Bobby Robson to be honest.
RN: So people who doubt he can do the business again, you think he can?
PP: There’s no person at this moment in time who could do anything (better) because his desire is there to go and do it - and he will achieve. The only thing that is stopping him from winning another Premiership is 4 the amount of money at Chelsea. You have to remember, United finished 2nd in the league last season. In my opinion they finished 2nd by default because the team at the moment they are up against is a team that is running £100m in the red. Any other business would have been closed down and chased by everybody, but because of the money that’s what United are up against. And as far as I can see, nobody can compete against it. United finished 2nd to a team only there by default. I don’t see it as winning a Premiership. Titles are won by teams who build and go on and when they win it, they build and contest it the next year by building on from what they’ve done. To keep going out and spending that kind of money without balancing the books right, it’s not business.
RN: Who would you buy then, if you could buy the defensive midfielder we need?
PP: I couldn’t honestly tell you ‘who’. I think we’ve got too obsessed with this defensive midfielder talk. I can’t see why we suddenly do it. The reason why? Roy Keane is to blame with this issue. Roy was never a defensive midfield player when he came to United. He was an upper and downer. After his injuries, Roy had to adapt, to change his game, to suit his needs. Roy couldn’t keep making those runs. So he regulated his runs, changed his game, became an organiser, getting the ball. Roy got the games tempo to suit him to be able to make his runs and see his runs better. So then people start seeing Roy sitting deeper so they start saying: ‘Oh, Roy’s playing in a defensive role’. No he wasn’t, Roy changed the game to suit himself to make the game better for him. And what it did, it made United a stronger side with Roy doing that role. Roy’s football brain helped it and it allowed Scholesy as well to play that little further forward with his passing ability to pick a pass and allowed Roy to run deeper, to make runs forward. Still 4-4-2. Every team - all they need is 4-4-2 - one midfield player goes, the other one sits. So nothing’s changed. We’ve got this thing in our heads for looking for this player. There's no players out there because that kind of player doesn’t exist. Every midfield player wants to score goals. No-one wants to sit back and let someone else get all the glory. So it’s just a case of finding that player who is unselfish, who has got the energy to make those kind of runs but is unselfish enough to go and sit to let someone make a run and maybe score a goal as well. We’ve made a defensive midfielder position out of nothing.
RN: There’s criticism of Carlos and the tactics that some say he’s bought in, is that relevant?
PP: My answer to that one is there’s only one manager and the manager makes the decisions. And whatever way Manchester United play, the manager will always hold his hands up and accept the performance because he’s made the decisions. You can blame coaches, they are the ones who do things in training but the buck stops with the manager. You can’t blame a coach because the manager decides if he goes with what the coach wants or what he wants. You can blame the players, if they haven’t pulled their weight but you have to ask the manager if they haven’t, why aren’t they pulling their weight on the park for you? Or why aren’t they doing that job right, why are they allowing people to win headers in the box all the time and score against us or work the goalkeeper? It’s the managers decision, it’s him who has to answer all the questions after the game. It’s the manager who gets his head drawn as a turnip!
RN: Robbo in a previous interview was raving about Kiddo...
PP: Kiddo was the best. I was fortunate enough to work under three very good coaches in my career. Peter Shreeves at QPR, Ray Hartford and Brian Kidd. Kidd went to another level. He was doing things which I’d never seen before. When I played at lesser teams as such, (I use that word loosely), we had to work that little bit harder in training, so it was more physically demanding. While Kiddo was more about ball skills, passing. You were still working hard but it was more with the ball rather than running without the ball. Kiddo had a presence about him where he’d say ‘we’re going to do this run 10 times’. But he had a way about him where it made you feel as if it was easy, it was a doddle. Even when you were knackered, Kiddo had a way to suddenly make you feel that you could go and do another 6 anyway.
When the Boss was shouting and screaming at you at half-time or whenever, Kiddo had a way of coming round to making you understand what the Boss was saying, but in a better way. Obviously the Boss is frustrated, he wants United to win and sometimes he says things and you can’t get your head around it and you want to bite but you have to keep your mouth shut. But Kiddo had a way of trying to cement in what the Boss was trying to say to you. And you go out knowing that what you did was wrong earlier and you get around it.I've seen the Boss and Incey have a major flair up at Norwich. Major. And I’ve seen Incey throw his boot on the floor and I’ve seen Kiddo go up to him at half-time and talk him around it and Incey go back out on that field and put in a 2nd half performance as Incey does - never stop running, people hanging on to his shirt tail trying to stay with him. Incey walks back in the dressing room, the Boss puts his arm around him and give him a big cuddle. At half-time they wanted to kill each other! That was Kiddo’s influence, settling it down, and the Gaffer coming in, not bearing a grudge because he knows someone has gone out and given him something. Take a rollicking, accept it and go and prove the manager wrong, shove it back where it’s come from. Good managers will accept that, put their arm round them and say ‘you’ve done it the right way, rather than sulking in the corner’.
RN: I remember Teddy Sheringham saying that Fergie’s a great man-manager but not a great tactician. Were the tactics big in the dressing room?
PP: He was a tactician. I think he is. The Boss knows what he wants and he knows how teams play. There’s people who know it. But you need someone, like a Brian Kidd, who can organise. Brian Kidd might not be good the other side, managing players, as the Boss is but he’s good at organising players to do what the Boss wants. The Boss knows what he wants but to try and get that out and explain it is very difficult. Same as any business. The manager will sit there and organise the people, but you need your shop steward or co-ordinator to sync it altogether for you. It’s what Brian Kidd could do, it’s what Steve McClaren did, and what Carlos is trying to do, to sync it all together to what Sir Alex Ferguson wants to do. I think it’s wrong to say he’s not very good tactically. He’s very good because of what he’s achieved, you can’t question that but you need someone to sync it all together for him to get what he wants. He knows the way he wants Manchester United to play but it needs someone to put the pieces together for it to happen.
RN: When Kiddo sank to his knees against Sheffield Wednesday, did everyone slaughter him fot it!
PP: Oh we caned him after! But we knew Manchester United is in his heart more than maybe any other player that has ever played for United. That was just relief. You could have a Carlos there, or a Steve McClaren there but they would never, at that first Championship, have had that emotion that Brian Kidd had on that day against Sheffield Wednesday. Never in a million years would anyone have been that emotional as Brian Kidd was. It was something that will always be in the history books. You show Manchester United over the last 15 years, and that clip will always be on. In United fans’ 10 most memorable clips, guaranteed that will be on everybody's list. If that ain’t in there then that person doesn’t know Manchester United!
Read part 3 of the interview next issue. PAUL PARKER: TACKLES LIKE A FERRET With Pat Symes (Know the Score books), is out now.