Ray Parlour: Romford’s Answer to Pele

Ray Parlour: Romford’s Answer to Pele

Player Profile: Ray Parlour

Date of Birth: 07/03/1973

Height: 1.83 m (6 ft)

Position: Midfielder

National Team: England

International Caps: 10

International Goals: 0

Club Career

Ray Parlour began his career at Arsenal, joining the North London club as a trainee in 1989. He made his debut for the first team in 1992 in a match against Liverpool, conceding a penalty on the way to a defeat.

In the beginning of his career he was on the fringes of the first team and was notorious for disciplinary issues. The Arsenal team had a heavy drinking culture in those days, and Parlour’s part in this led to some legendary stories, maybe the most famous of which ended with him being fined half a seasons wages after being arrested in Hong Kong for punching a taxi driver brandishing a machete.

After this incident Parlour began focusing more on his football and with his game time increasing steadily he developed into a player with an important role in the team. When Arsene Wenger arrived as the manager in 1996, he continued to improve and he became a vital part of the Arsenal side. Playing on the right or in the centre of the midfield, he was a hard working and hard tackling player but there was more to his game than that.

Parlour was a skilled footballer with a strong technique, and while not a huge goal scorer, when he did score they were often well placed shots from outside the box. He did manage memorable hat tricks against Werder Bremen in the UEFA Cup and at home against Newcastle.

Arsenal completed a domestic double in the ‘97/98 season, winning the Premier League and the FA Cup. Parlour played an integral part in their success, playing 34 games in the league and assisting one of the goals in the cup final which saw him named Man of the Match. In spite of his domestic displays, Parlour was overlooked for the 1998 England World Cup squad.

Parlour continued to appear regularly for Arsenal despite the emergence of Patrick Vieira. His his next taste of silverware came in the ‘01/02 season, when Arsenal again won a league and cup double. This season saw one of Parlour’s most iconic moments in an Arsenal shirt when he scored a memorable goal in the FA Cup final. Dribbling towards the Chelsea goal with a lack of options ahead of him, Parlour edged to his right and curled a powerful shot around his defender, beating the goalkeeper from 25 yards out.

At this point in his career Parlour began to struggle with injuries and a knee problem kept him out for part of the season. Further injuries and the emergence of Freddie Ljungberg meant Ray began to find appearances harder to come by in the next few seasons.

However, Parlour remained with the Gunners and was still a key part of the Arsenal squad that would come to be known as ‘The Invincibles’. He made 25 appearances for the team as they went unbeaten in the Premier League and Parlour added another Premier League winners medal to his collection.

The Invincibles season would be Parlour’s final campaign in a Gunners shirt though, as Middlesbrough picked him up on a free transfer in the summer of 2004. He played three seasons at Boro, making 60 appearances for the North Yorkshire club. They made it to the 2006 UEFA Cup Final, in which Parlour was an unused substitute in a 4-0 defeat to Sevilla. In January 2007 Middlesbrough released Parlour from his contract, and he returned to Arsenal to train whilst searching for a new club.

A relegation threatened Hull City signed Parlour in February 2007 for the remainder of the season and he played 15 games as they managed to remain in the Championship. He wasn’t offered a new contract at the end of the season and the ’06/07 season would be his last.

He holds the Arsenal record for Premier League appearances at 333, and is still a popular figure at the club today. Many fans see him as an underrated player overshadowed by some of the big names at the club during his spell with them.

Ray Parlour ended his career having won 3 Premier League titles, 4 FA Cups and a single triumph in the League Cup. Nicknamed ‘the Romford Pele’, he may not have been quite at the level of his Brazilian namesake, but with Arsenal fans he was certainly as popular.

International Career

Ray Parlour’s England career had a false start in 1998, when he was named in the squad for the first time but was forced to pull out after a calf strain. His first appearance came in 1999, making his debut under Kevin Keegan in a Euro 2000 qualifier against Poland. This was the first of 10 caps he earned for his country.

He struggled to secure a permanent place in the England side over the following years, with David Beckham locking down the right midfield position and England having a large number of options in the middle. He never featured in a tournament for England and made his final appearance for the Three Lions in a friendly against Italy in November 2000.

Where is Ray Parlour now?

Parlour’s post football career has been mostly media based, with the Arsenal man frequently appearing on TalkSport and BBC radio as well as working as a pundit on live matches. He also appears as an after dinner speaker, and in 2016 released a book titled ‘The Romford Pelé: It’s only Ray Parlour’s Autobiography’. Parlour is still popular with football fans and his entertaining videos on social media help to uphold his status as a cult hero, especially amongst Arsenal fans.

Did you know? Interesting facts about Ray Parlour

– In his early Arsenal days he played as a substitute shortly after drinking several pints when one of his team mates was injured in the warm up. He played well but George Graham fined him two weeks wages after he realised he’d been drinking.

– Parlour once captained Arsenal against Inter Milan at the San Siro after a 3-0 loss at Highbury, with the Gunners beating the Italians 5-1 on their home ground.

– After a problem with the floodlights leading to a power cut at the ground during a game, Parlour decided to tell Arsene Wenger this was because there was a bomb in the stands.