SCOTT Parker has enjoyed more action-packed afternoons.
The England midfielder barely broke sweat as he sat in front of Tottenham’s back four at the Academy of Light yesterday, as Sunderland Under-21s edged an action-packed encounter 2-1.
But Parker provided an invaluable lesson for Sunderland’s rookies of the dedication needed to make the grade in the Premier League.
The 32-year-old could easily have remained at Tottenham’s sparkling new £45m Enfield training base as he continued his comeback from the Achilles problem which has kept him out all season.
But Parker travelled to the North East with Spurs’ kids on Sunday, stayed overnight and then played 90 minutes in the bitter, swirling gale at the academy.
Sunderland development coach Kevin Ball told the Gazette: “Scott’s coming back from an injury, and it’s testament to the quality of pro he is that he realises he needs to play games to get himself ready for the first team.
“He wanted to play, which is what we as coaches want to hear and as ex-players too, to see that there is still that enthusiasm out there. Fair play to him.”
Parker may have been the big name on show, but it was returning Sunderland striker Ryan Noble who helped the Black Cats to victory in the final game before the U21 League reforms in the New Year.
The 21-year-old, back from a two-month loan spell with League One Hartlepool United, had an early opportunity when Jordan Laidler fed the striker down the left-hand channel of the penalty area, but could only curl his shot against the legs of keeper Lawrence Vigouroux.
It was Spurs who found the breakthrough in the 18th minute after right winger Christian Ceballos was allowed to ghost inside off the flank before curling a left-footed shot beyond Ben Wilson into the far top corner.
But in the 32nd minute, Noble equalised, readjusting to volley under Vigouroux from point-blank range.
Sunderland then took the lead when David Ferguson’s corner from the right caught in the wind, deceived Vigouroux and left Connor Oliver to head into the empty net from a yard out.
Both sides had chances after the break, but Sunderland hung on to win the game.
Ball added: “I thought it was a fantastic all-round football performance, with players prepared to work for each other out of or in possession.
“We knew Spurs would have a lot of the ball, but I thought we were patient and counter-attacked really well.”
SUNDERLAND: Wilson, Marrs, Ferguson, Reed, Harrison, Oliver, Mitchell, Gorrin, Noble, Laidler, Deacon. Not used: Joyce, Pickford, Callaghan, Knott.
SPURS: Vigouroux, Barthram, Stewart, Luongo, Hall, Veljkovic (Gallifuoco 80), Parrett (Coulibaly 61), Parker, Obika, Pritchard (Munns 80), Ceballos. Not used: Priestley.