By Tony Attwood
Tom Parker was born in a suburb of Southampton, and he joined his local club playing his first season in the war leagues that carried on until 1919, then one season with the Saints in the Southern League. In this third season (1920/21) Southampton moved into the Football League for the newly created third division.
In their first season in the Third, Southampton were runners up, but that year only the champions went up. However in 1921/2 the league was renamed Third Division (South) and Southampton won it on goal average and so moved into the Second division for the first time.
In 1925 Tom played in the cup semi-final with Southampton (who had quite a tradition in the FA Cup, having reached the final in 1902), and Tom won a cap for England playing against France.
During his time at Southampton, Parker also won a solitary cap for England, against France on 21 May 1925.
In March 1926 Tom signed for Arsenal, having made 275 appearances for Southampton, and played on April 3 against Blackburn in front of 31,000 at Highbury. Tom took over from Alec Mackie who had suffered a serious injury in the previous season and missed most of it. Mackie however had played 35 times in the league in 1925/6 but Tom took over the number 2 shirt, and held it for the all time record of 172 consecutive games. Mackie held on in the reserves for two seasons before retrieving his career at Portsmouth who had just reached the 1st Division for the first time.
Tom Parker was captain of Arsenal in the first cup final (against Cardiff) and again in 1930, when he was the first ever Arsenal player to lift the FA Cup.
He was captain again as Arsenal won the league in 1931, and in the 1932 cup final. Amazingly he missed only six league games in seven seasons.
By the start of the 1932/3 season Tom was 34 and he was initially replaced by Leslie Compton who was just starting out on his career and Tom regained his place after four games. But after five more games Tom was George Male. His final game was the last of that run of five games – a 3-3 draw with Derby on October 8 and after seeing out the rest of 1932/3 in the reserves he became player manager of Norwich City. Norwich came third in 1933/4, so were clearly a decent third division team – but Tom took them to the championship in 1933/4 – seven points clear of second placed Coventry.
In March 1937 he returned to Southampton as manager and helped the club avoid relegation by four points. He then used Chapman techniques to buy in good players – most notably Bill Dodgin and Ted Bates. However by the time war broke out Southampton were still resolutely stuck in the lower reaches of the second division.
When football was abandoned in 1939 Tom worked for the Ministry of Transport, managing Southampton part-time, until June 1943, when he resigned. After the war he worked as a ship’s surveyor for Lloyd’s in Southampton Docks.
In 1955 he returned to Norwich for a second spell. The club were back in the Third Division South by then, and the return finished badly with Norwich ending 1956/7 bottom of the league and having to seek re-election.
Tom then retired but was then asked by Ted Bates (whom Tom had signed for Southampton but who was now Southampton’s manager) to become a scout. He eventually became chief scout, and finally retired in 1975. He died aged 89 in 1987.