Not many teams, either in or outside of the EFL, can rival Scott Parker’s AFC Bournemouth side’s start to the season.
The former Fulham boss has settled into life at the Vitality Stadium after making the switch from Craven Cottage, having learnt all about the Club from his brother-in-law and former Cherries star Harry Arter.
Five points clear at the top of the Sky Bet Championship standings, the Cherries’ 14-game unbeaten streak is still going strong, but their resolve will be tested when Bournemouth travel to Reading this weekend.
“One thing I do know for sure is that people are chasing you down when you’re at the top and it’s the hardest position to be in,” Parker told the Official EFL Podcast.
“We use it to our advantage at this present moment in time. Every game that comes along, our confidence is very high and the whole culture around the Club is in a good place because we’re winning games, as you’d expect.
“It’s been a very good start. As quick as I say that, the word start springs to mind and that’s exactly what it is. We need to maintain and keep the consistency. None of us have been tested at the moment and there are going to be testing times ahead, but I see people that will work hard and want to try even more.”
However, the former England international remains cautious, despite Bournemouth sitting pretty at the summit.
“You take your off it one little bit and it has a real good habit of biting you. I also know what this division is about, and it’s a tough division,” he said.
“The most important thing is being controlled in your emotions and understanding where you are. It’s about being balanced and not being too high when you’re winning, like we are the moment, and the same when things aren’t going too well. The main focus and drive with me are processes and sticking to them and being professional. It’s relentless in what we do.”
The 41-year-old knows all about the pressure of managing in the Championship.
In 2019/20, Parker steered Fulham back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. The Cottagers placed fourth, beating Cardiff City in the Play-Off Semi-Finals, before overcoming Brentford in the Final.
He’s learnt on the job in the time since then and although he continues to grow as a manager, one thing hasn’t changed for Scott Parker: he never takes his mind off the job.
“It’s probably a question to ask my wife because she’ll probably say I never stop. Even when I’m with her, there’s times when I’m just looking up into blank spaces and thinking about the next day. It’s that fear of failure. It’s a constant that’s going around in your head.
“It’s probably the only profession, where me or any manager, that gets judged the most and that people have high opinions on. You wouldn’t go up to a doctor and really start to question what they’re doing and what they’re not doing, but that’s football and that’s what makes our game so great. You’ve constantly got to be at the height of your game.”
Earlier in October, Bournemouth’s David Brooks was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin Lymphoma and Parker faced his toughest moment as a manager.
The midfielder has been flooded with messages of support from fellow players, managers and supporters across the EFL – not least his own manager and team-mates.
Stay strong, @DRBrooks15, we’re all with you ❤️ pic.twitter.com/SOUnfGchY8— EFL (@EFL) October 14, 2021
“You see someone so young and so healthy, certainly before that, and to be given that diagnosis has been terrible news for us only two weeks ago when that came through,” Parker explained. “In terms of managing that and managing the players, it has been difficult. My message has been very consistent in that. This group of players are right behind David. We’ll put every support mechanism in place.
“We’ve done that in terms of the crowd as well. The weekend was the first time that us as home supporters could really show David what he means to this Club. I’ve been here 17 weeks and I see how much he’s loved.”
And Parker and his players have certainly done their team-mate proud with their start to the season.