The first managerial sacking of the new season, the former England international was given his marching orders after his side were thrashed 9-0 by Liverpool just four games into the campaign, having guided the club back to the top flight after achieving automatic promotion in May.
Bournemouth fans had momentarily forgotten about their summer of frustration in the transfer window when they beat Aston Villa on their return to the Premier League. Parker oversaw a vintage display, redolent of Eddie Howe’s slick possession football when the south coast side were a breath of fresh air upon their initial spell in 2015-16. A 2-0 win at the Vitality Stadium, with goals from Jefferson Lerma and Kieffer Moore, ensured three points were on the board, something so crucial when you’re tipped for a relegation dogfight amongst the Premier League betting odds.
What followed was the brutal, yet inevitable disappointment expected with Bournemouth’s combination of difficult fixtures and lack of investment. Just three players arrived all summer — Joe Rothwell was injured in preseason whilst a combined £23 million on Marcos Sensei and Marcus Tavernier hardly demonstrate the same ambition as fellow new boys Nottingham Forest and Parker’s former side Fulham, who spent heavily in a bid to avoid being in the same position the Cherries now find themselves in.
Given their next few games — Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool — Bournemouth fans could have been forgiven for having such low expectations following the opening day. The 4-0 thrashing at the Etihad and the 3-0 loss to Arsenal were hardly going to change the Premier League predictions, but a 9-0 onslaught at Anfield against Liverpool was to be the final nail in the coffin for Parker.
Not for a want of trying, the players looked absolutely toothless in front of goal against Liverpool and it wasn’t so much a lack of effort, just a genuine lack of ability that will be most concerning for the season ahead.
Throughout the onslaught you could see Parker growing visibly frustrated, exemplified by his lashing of an expensive cardigan on the Anfield ground, greeted with ironic cheers and whistles from the home crowd, goading him in embarrassing fashion as the luxury grey cashmere collected grass stains on the periphery of his technical area. It will serve as a permanent reminder of how challenging it can be to keep a newly promoted side afloat, especially when not backed by the board, who it seems were unhappy with his post-match comments.
“As a player, and certainly as a coach, this is the toughest and most painful day that I have experienced, for sure,” he said. “It goes without saying it was a real humbling experience and one that was pretty shell-shocking really.
“In the sense of the result, I am probably not too surprised to be honest with you – in the sense of the levels we are playing against here and the quality is just far greater than we have at this present moment in time, at our disposal.
“At this moment we are just a little bit unequipped from where we’ve come from, from what we have. It’s proved a bit difficult.”
The strangest part of this sacking isn’t the results, it’s the timing. You get the sense that things can’t get much worse in terms of a performance for Bournemouth after the visit to Merseyside, but with more winnable fixtures on the horizon, the board perhaps could have shown some restraint. A relegation-threatened side that have hired more than two managers in a season rarely survive, and Parker’s ousting shows signs of Fulham and Hull City in recent years, where the likes of Martin Jol, René Meulensteen and Felix Magath were wheeled in as part of a desperate ploy for survival.
Next up for Bournemouth is Wolverhampton Wanderers and then Forest, where they head into a new phase of the season with a sense of the unknown. That lack of identity may ultimately prove their downfall, and you wonder if whoever gets hired will seek to undo the possession-oriented style that Parker spent the best part of two seasons building. The reality of the situation is Bournemouth need a manager who will be hegemonic and disciplined, yet hit the ground running or risk facing the same fate as his predecessor.