Paul Andrew Parker (born West Ham, London, 4th April 1964) is a retired English footballer with QPR and Manchester United who was a crucial player at the 1990 World Cup with England.
Parker, a central defender, started his career with Fulham before joining QPR, where he made his name as a nippy and incisive defender, even though he lacked the height normally associated with his position. His prowess was noticed by England coach Bobby Robson who, establishing he could also play at right back, gave him his international debut against Albania in 1989.
Parker continued to play centrally for his club while deputising for the first-choice Gary Stevens on the right side of defence for country. He was selected as Stevens' back-up for the 1990 World Cup in Italy but, with Stevens putting in a disappointing display in the opening 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland, Parker was put in the team, just five caps into his career.
He stayed there, playing comfortably behind Chris Waddle as England progressed through their group and as far as the semi-finals, where they met West Germany. Here two incidents would define Parker's career.
With the score at 0-0, the Germans won a free kick just outside the England penalty area early in the second half and as the ball was tapped to Andreas Brehme, Parker sprinted from the defensive wall to try to block the shot. Instead, it clipped off him at such an angle that the ball looped high into the air and swirled round and over goalkeeper Peter Shilton and into the net. The goal was credited to Brehme, but Parker managed to make amends with fewer than ten minutes to play.
Collecting the ball down the right flank, he looked up and sent a high and dangerous ball towards Gary Lineker. The German defenders got in each other's way and Lineker found room to score with a far post shot. The game ended 1-1 and England departed on penalties. Stevens was recalled for the meaningless third-place play off match against Italy and Parker (who came on as a sub in that game) emerged from the tournament as one of England's many successes.
That said, it did not help him curry favour with Robson's replacement as England coach, Graham Taylor, who chose Arsenal's Lee Dixon several times over the next few months, including all bar one of the qualifiers for Euro 92. Parker, Dixon, Stevens and Rob Jones were all injured for the tournament itself in Sweden, so Taylor had to pick a central defender to play at right back (without the luxury of having another centre-cum-right back like Parker at his disposal) and England were dismissed at the group stage.
During this period, Parker was sold by QPR to Manchester United for two million pounds in August 1991, and he made his debut (now as a specialist right back) against Notts County the same month. Unfortunately, Parker's five-year career at Old Trafford was blighted frequently by injury and as the club began to dominate the English game under Alex Ferguson, Parker struggled to maintain his fitness.
He won a League Cup winners medal in 1992, a Premiership title medal a year later, and another Premiership title medal and the FA Cup a further year on. The last two years though saw Parker's inability to stay fit coupled with the emergence of Gary Neville, who ultimately replaced Parker at right back for both club and country.
Parker missed out on almost 18 months of international football but in October 1993 he was called up by Taylor for a vital qualifier for the 1994 World Cup against the Netherlands in Rotterdam. England lost 2-0 and Parker's hope of reaching a second World Cup were gone.
When Terry Venables took over as England coach in 1994, he called up Parker for his first game in charge - a 1-0 win over Denmark at Wembley but then looked at other right backs before installing Neville as his first choice the following year. Parker's England career, which had reached such a high four years earlier, was over after just 19 appearances.
He then spent two seasons more on the treatment table than the pitch at Old Trafford, and was released on a free transfer in 1996.
He joined Chelsea briefly during the 1996-97 season where he made 4 first team appearances and a host of reserve appearances. He was released at the end of that season after not making an impression in the blue of Chelsea and announced his retirement.
Parker went into the non-league game and did a spot of coaching. He is often seen and heard as a pundit when matters concerning QPR, Manchester United or England are in the news. He also managed Welling United. As a result he is now an ambassador for the non-league top division, now re-named the Blue Square Premier.
Paul has ventured into media punditry and from August will be the lead co-commentator on Setanta Sports exclusively live Conference National coverage.