ALEX Parker's death on Thursday, at the age of 74, leaves only five survivors from the Falkirk side who earned the club's second – and last – Scottish Cup victory in 1957. It was a golden age for the club, and Parker was the golden boy.
He will be remembered with affection not just in Falkirk, where he also collected the Scottish player of the year award in 1957. For although Parker won 14 of his 15 Scotland caps with Falkirk – and remains the club's most capped player – he went on to even greater things with an Everton team that benefited from the munificence of millionaire Littlewoods owner John Moores, who became an influential director of the club 50 years ago this month.
Tommy Ring, from Clyde, was the first 'big money' signing, and others soon followed, including Alex Young from Hearts. Despite the heavy investment, there was not a need to invest in another right-back. Parker was already considered by many to be the finest in the land and it is still regarded as perverse that he never won another cap after the 1958 World Cup finals, where he played in Scotland's defeat to Paraguay in Norkopping. He was dropped for the last match in Sweden against France, and, having made his international debut at the age of just 19, did not feature again.
"He wasn't in the Scotland team, but he was still the best in his position in Britain," Young told The Scotsman yesterday. "Players who could not lace his boots were getting a game. But Alex was such a nice man. He would just crack a joke about it.
"He signed a couple of years before I did, and so he made it his job to help me settle," Young adds. "He was highly regarded by everyone at Goodison. The apprentices loved him, as did the seniors. And of course the supporters had taken to him as soon as he started playing."
But the fans had to wait for Parker's debut for Everton, after he joined the club from Brockville in an 18,000 deal. At the time he was a National Serviceman with the Royal Scots Fusiliers, and his first appearances for Everton were delayed as he completed a tour of duty in Cyprus. Despite the sudden dip in his international prospects Parker went on to win a championship medal with Everton in 1963, when the Goodison Park club overcame the kind of big freeze which is currently causing such disruption to the British sports calendar. Parker's Everton did not play a league game between mid-December and mid-February, but returned to active service in good form and won the title with a 4-1 win over Fulham in May. Parker was one of four Scots in the team, with Young, Jimmy Gabriel and Alex Scott, who had signed midway through the season from Rangers, making up the quartet.
It was a fine time to be an Evertonian. The FA Cup was lifted in 1966 but Parker had left by then, and, indeed, did not last much longer after the title victory. Hamstring problems began to hinder him and accounted for his unusual move from one of the best sides in England to Southport, aged just 30. "A local lad called Tommy Wright took over at full-back, but there was no malice from Alex at all," recalls Young. "He wished him all the best. There was no chip on his shoulder."
Perhaps Parker, who was handed the inevitable nick-name 'Nosey', felt he had already achieved enough, from Scottish Cup winner to member of a side crowned the best team in England. He had certainly made his mark in the game as an adventurous full-back and is credited with perfecting the art of the sliding tackle. "It's something you don't see so much now," Young reflects. "You would think an attacker was getting away, but out would come the right leg from nowhere. He rarely fouled." When, last year, Parker told him he was having his left leg amputated below the knee, Young replied, with reference to the artful tackles for which the full-back was famed: "Well, at least it isn't the right one". Those who packed the terraces at Brockville in the Fifties had been fortunate enough to view Parker as he went about refining this talent. Alex Totten, who played for and then managed Falkirk, was among them. "He was my hero," he says. "There is no-one else who comes close.
"I spoke to him on New Year's day, and he seemed in good spirits," adds Totten. "When I was a boy I signed for Liverpool and one of the thoughts which excited me most was that I might play against Alex." It turned out that Totten could only admire Parker from afar, although they became close friends. Parker was on top table at Totten's testimonial dinner in 2008. This is not the only place that his reputation helped reserve for him. He is in Everton's Hall of Fame as well as being named in Falkirk's team of the Millennium. He was also selected by no less an authority than Sir Matt Busby for his World XI. Further signifying his status is the Alex Parker Lounge at the new Falkirk Stadium.
It is a loss also felt by a game Parker blessed with his up-beat presence. "There will be bus loads coming up from Liverpool to pay tribute," predicts Young. "He was so adored."