IN PRO­FILE

Fo­cus on Brad­ford man­ager Phil Parkinson

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

PHIL Parkinson was never the silki­est player, nor the most gifted. He of­ten saw the im­pos­si­ble pass, but that didn’t mean he could play it.

As Alan Pardew, his man­ager at Read­ing once joked: “Tech­ni­cally, Phil wasn’t too great. There was a time dur­ing my ten­ure when we wouldn’t even give him the ball, but it didn’t mat­ter – he went and won it for him­self any­way!”

And that, in a nut­shell, is why Read­ing fans will al­ways love him. De­ter­mined, bloody-minded and in­tel­li­gent to boot, Parkinson pa­trolled the Royals’ mid­field for over ten years, tack­ling, chas­ing, har­ry­ing and hound­ing.

Through rel­e­ga­tion, pro­mo­tion and the up­heaval of mov­ing from Elm Park to the Mad Stad, ‘Parky’ was the rock upon which all Read­ing fans hung their hats.

That’s why, in 2007, he was voted the club’s sec­ond-great­est player be­hind the mer­cu­rial Robin Fri­day. Why in 2003,fans protested out­side the sta­dium un­til chair­man John Made­jski awarded him a tes­ti­mo­nial.

Why Graeme Murty, who spent the first five of his 11 years at Read­ing with Parkinson, counts the mid­fielder as the sin­gle great­est in­flu­ence on his ca­reer.

“Phil is the rea­son I was at Read­ing as long as I was, and why I am the per­son that I am when I play,” said Murty, now re­tired.

“At Read­ing he was al­ways the first on the pitch and the last off it, and his per­for­mances set the ex­am­ple for what was ex­pected when you pulled on a Read­ing shirt. He is a le­gend there and rightly so.”

Hav­ing joined from Bury in 1992, Parkinson would even­tu­ally play more than 400 games for Read­ing, win­ning pro­mo­tion from the old Di­vi­sion Three in 1994 un­der Mark McGhee and again in 2002 un­der Pardew.

He was player of the year twice run­ning and by rights should have played in the Pre­mier League af­ter the Royals fin­ished sec­ond to Mid­dles­brough in 1995.

How­ever, with the top flight shrink­ing to 20 teams, only one team went up au­to­mat­i­cally that sea­son, con­sign­ing Read­ing to the play-offs where they were beaten 4-3 by Bolton at Wem­b­ley.

Parkinson even­tu­ally left the Made­jski in 2003, but only af­ter com­plet­ing all his coach­ing badges and an Open Univer­sity de­gree in so­cial sciences. It was an aca­demic cock­tail that ap­pealed to Colch­ester United owner Peter Heard.

“Some­one in the game with con­nec­tions with Read­ing said to me that if I was look­ing for a man­ager I could do a lot worse than Phil Parkinson,” re­calls Heard, who stepped down in 2007.

“I got in touch on the Fri­day and on the Mon­day his CV ar­rived as one of 87 ap­pli­ca­tions.We got down to a list of four, had our in­ter­views and I was at­tracted to his en­thu­si­asm. We thought we would be a good club for him to achieve some­thing.”

Heard’s hunch was cor­rect. Within two years the U’s had won pro­mo­tion to the Cham­pi­onship, de­spite hav­ing the low­est aver­age gate in League One.

And though Parkinson left un­der a cloud when he then joined Hull – a dis­as­trous sixth-month stint that re­sulted in the sack – Colch­ester le­gend Karl Duguid be­lieves his legacy deserves re­spect.

“When he first came, there was no money, an old sta­dium and no train­ing ground,” say Duguid. “Now there’s a brand new sta­dium, an am­bi­tious young chair­man and a state-of-the-art train­ing ground. Ob­vi­ously there are a lot of fac­tors be­hind that but Phil started the ball rolling with that pro­mo­tion.”

Af­ter Hull, Parkinson re­joined Pardew as a coach at Charlton, tak­ing full charge in Novem­ber 2008 with the Ad­dicks head­ing for rel­e­ga­tion to League One.

A play-off tilt the fol­low­ing year – achieved un­der crip­pling fi­nan­cial con­straints – was ended in the semi­fi­nals by Swin­don, and Parkinson was sacked in Jan­uary 2011 af­ter a string of de­feats.

A spell as Arse­nal’s chief north­ern scout ended when fallen gi­ants Brad­ford came call­ing in the sum­mer of 2011,and to­day – af­ter a fairy­tale run to the Car­ling Cup fi­nal and last year’s pro­mo­tion from League Two – it is look­ing like the best move ei­ther of them ever made. “Phil was very clever,” said Guy Branston, one of sev­eral play­ers axed by Parkinson. “He changed the core of the team whole­sale and that needed to hap­pen be­cause there was a neg­a­tive en­vi­ron­ment that dragged ev­ery­body down.

“You’d hear it ev­ery day, peo­ple moan­ing about the train­ing ground be­ing too wet and things like that.

“That’s what Phil has done well to sort out. He’s changed the whole ethos of the place and look where it has got them.”

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