WEST Ham manager Gianfranco Zola has backed Scott Parker as the ideal replacement for Gareth Barry if the Manchester City midfielder fails to make the World Cup.
Barry is expected to be sidelined for a month after suffering ankle ligament damage and England's opening match of the tournament against the United States is just five weeks away.
The 29-year-old has become a key figure in the England midfield and is certain to be included in Fabio Capello's provisional 30-man squad, which is named on Tuesday.
But Barry will definitely be absent from the friendlies against Mexico and Japan - fixtures which cover the two training camps in Austria that Capello views as essential World Cup preparation.
Zola is convinced that if Capello was to find himself without Barry then Parker, West Ham's player of the year, would be the perfect alternative.
"If they take Scott Parker they will not be disappointed," said Zola.
"He has been our player of the season. For me personally, he has been exceptional. He has been an inspiration for others.
"If you ask me, I would say take him but then I am his manager. I know that Capello will do the right things."
Zola's future at the club remains uncertain ahead of a meeting with club owners David Gold and David Sullivan next week.
Parker has been one of Zola's staunchest supporters.
When the former Chelsea midfielder scored the winner against Wigan that confirmed West Ham had avoided relegation, he ran to celebrate with the Italian.
Parker paid tribute to Zola's impact at the club during his acceptance speech as he collected the West Ham player of the year award.
Zola is not proud that West Ham struggled for much of this season but given the turbulent circumstances he was working in, survival has to be considered an achievement.
If the Hammers beat Manchester City tomorrow they could finish in 14th place, which would strengthen the Italian's case for staying in charge.
But Zola's professional relationship with Gold and Sullivan appears to be non-existent after it emerged last week they had been conducting transfer business behind his back.
Zola only discovered the club had made a £4million bid for West Brom midfielder Graham Dorrans when it was reported in the newspapers.
And he was equally surprised when Sullivan revealed in an interview that every squad member apart from Scott Parker had been put up for sale.
That prompted Zola to tell Gold and Sullivan that keeping the manager in the dark over transfer dealings is no way to run a football club.
Zola's admission that he does not know what to say when he meets the owners next week will only fuel speculation that he is resigned to leaving the club this summer.
"We are going to meet some time next week," said Zola.
"There is no point in me saying whether I want to stay or not. Let me talk to the club first.
"I don't know what the owners are going to say.
"I am not very good at promoting myself, but we will see what the outcome is when we are there.
"If you ask me what I am going to say I honestly don't know."