In March 1926 Tom Parker signed for Arsenal, having made 275 appearances for Southampton, and he played on April 3 against Blackburn in front of 31,000 at Highbury, taking over from Alec Mackie who had suffered a serious injury, It was a significant moment for it was the start of a record 172 consecutive games for an Arsenal player.
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 although Tom regained his place after four games.
His final game was the 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 and who was now Southampton’s manager) to become a scout. He eventually became chief scout, and finally retired for the final time in 1975. He died aged 89 in 1987.