BEAST UN­LEASHED

BELLY LAUGHS & TEARS Pies, pints, poles and goals - ‘The Beast’ re­veals what feeds his ap­petite

The Non-League Football Paper - - NEWS - By MATT BAD­COCK

Wily York City striker Jon Parkin ex­plains some truths re­vealed in his new book, Feed the Beast

JON PARKIN’S nine-year-old son, Oliver, wants to know when he can read his dad’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy.“I told him on the day of my fu­neral,” Parkin laughs.

Feed The Beast, which prom­ises Pints, pies, poles – and a belly full of goals, is the story of the York City striker’s colour­ful ca­reer.

One that started out at Barnsley, nearly saw him quit the game to be­come a nurs­ery nurse, be­fore tak­ing his burly frame – hence the af­fec­tion­ate Beast nick­name – from Macclesfield to Hull City, Stoke City, Pre­ston North End, Cardiff City, Fleet­wood, For­est Green, Newport County and back to the Min­ster­men, where he’d fallen back in love with the game all those years ago.

“There’s a story in there from pretty much ev­ery club I’ve left and the rea­son why,” the 36-yearold says. “They’re not all just be­cause the man­ager didn’t want us or I wanted to leave – there’s al­ways been some sort of ar­gu­ment or story of how I’ve ac­tu­ally left. If peo­ple are read­ing it from clubs I’ve played for and they’re won­der­ing why or why they didn’t keep me, hope­fully it will be in­ter­est­ing.

“I’m not em­bar­rassed about any­thing I’ve done re­ally. Maybe a cou­ple of things but it’s prob­a­bly a book peo­ple will read and say, ‘How has he played foot­ball for 20 years?’”

Loved by fans he’s played for, Parkin could be con­sid­ered a dy­ing breed in a game be­ing drained of its char­ac­ters.

His goal record more than stands up. He’s scored 225 times, fa­mously in­clud­ing a hat-trick at El­land Road for Pre­ston in a 6-4 thrilling win, and played more than 600 games, win­ning pro­mo­tion with Stoke City and Fleet­wood, played and Wem­b­ley three times where he also scored and won the FA Tro­phy with York. But just how has he lasted all this time?

“I’ve no idea! Luck?” he says. “I must have been al­right at it I sup­pose. I think my size has ac­tu­ally helped the way I play and I’ve been lucky most man­agers have thought, ‘He’s a good player, we’ll sign him and we’ll get him fit’. They’ve all tried to change me but within a month of get­ting to us they’re like, there’s no point, we’re just pick­ling in the wind.

“It’s usu­ally when some­one has been sacked and they’ve fetched a new man­ager in. Luck­ily for me I’ve al­ways been scor­ing quite reg­u­larly so I’ve al­ways had that lit­tle bit in the back of my head where if a man­ager says, ‘You need to do X Y and Z,’ I can say, ‘Well, I scored Satur­day!’ Or ‘I’ve scored ten in 20 games’. So shove it, kind of thing!”

De­ter­mined to be as hon­est as pos­si­ble in his book, Parkin says he hasn’t been afraid to dig out some of his past man­agers.

Scrapes

He says there are sto­ries in there even his fam­ily didn’t know about un­til now. Like the tough time he went through at Cardiff and how he al­most walked away from the game when he was let go by Barnsley.

“I started a col­lege course as a nurs­ery nurse when I was 19,” he says. “I was very close to sack­ing foot­ball off when I was re­leased by Barnsley. “It wasn’t the fact I’d been re­leased it was the way it hap­pened. I thought, ‘It’s not for me this’. I’d got shipped out on loan to Hartle­pool and played like five min­utes in my first month. The man­ager at Barnsley rang and said they wanted me to stay an­other month. “I was sup­posed to be train­ing one Satur­day morn­ing which meant I wasn’t in the squad for the Satur­day af­ter­noon. I’d gone home on the Fri­day and I didn’t get the phone call from the physio un­til tea time. I wasn’t driv­ing at the time so I said, ‘Well, I can’t get up.’ He said, ‘No bother, that’s fine’, so I thought, well, I’m not travelling up to watch the game in the mid­dle of Jan­uary freez­ing my t**s off and I didn’t go.

“I got a phone call on Mon­day morn­ing from the man­ager at Barnsley say­ing, ‘Who do you think you are? You should have been on the bench’. But I shouldn’t have been be­cause I was sup­posed to be train­ing in the morn­ing.

“He ended up swear­ing down the phone, told me I was fined two weeks wages and I was free at the end of the year – you can eff off and that was the end of that.

“That was Steve Parkin. Then he ended up com­ing to Hull as as­sis­tant man­ager when I was there.

“Phil Brown pulled me first day and said he’d fetched in Steve Parkin, what did I think? I told him ex­actly what I thought – that was the start of me wilt­ing away at Hull.”

Parkin is great en­ter­tain­ment as he talks through his scrapes.

“I’ve never got in real trouble – I’ve just al­ways seemed to have got my­self in pick­les where, if I’d thought about it, I wouldn’t have got into them,” he says.

Pranks

There was the time he al­most drowned white-water raft­ing while on pre-sea­son in Aus­tria with Fleet­wood and a story about hav­ing pre-match fish & chips when he didn’t re­alise he was due to be on the bench.

Parkin ad­mits he’s al­ways seen foot­ball as a job. Some­thing he switches off from when he leaves the train­ing ground or sta­dium af­ter a game. He tends to en­joy him­self too, of­ten at the cen­tre of dress­ing room pranks – just ask Chris Sedg­wick when he was at Pre­ston.

“Trans­fer dead­line day, ob­vi­ous­know ly ev­ery­one’s wait­ing around their phones,” Parkin says. “Sedgey’s gone out to train but I’ve waited back. I changed my num­ber in his phone to his agent’s name. I phoned it 15 or 16 times and sent a mes­sage say­ing: Call me ASAP. Some­thing’s hap­pen­ing.

“He’s come in from train­ing, looked at his phone straight­away – we’re all watch­ing – and he smiled to him­self. He got up all cocky, ‘Looks like I’m off lads’. He’s gone out of the dress­ing room into the car park and phoned this num­ber, which he thought was his agent, and I an­swered: ‘Get back in here you id­iot!’ He came back in with his tail be­tween his legs. If you think about it, it’s ac­tu­ally quite cruel. He took it well.”

Parkin has been around long enough to see how the game has changed over the years.

“It’s got a bit too se­ri­ous now,” he says. “Ev­ery­body’s try­ing to find new ways to get that lit­tle bit ex­tra. I say most days, ‘I’ll tell you what, I don’t know how Pele used to play, me. I don’t know how Ge­orgie Best used to play. Not do­ing all this ac­ti­va­tion,

not do­ing all this strength work – how did they play foot­ball, these guys?’

“It’s ob­vi­ously all chang­ing for the bet­ter as a foot­baller but, I don’t know, it’s just all got a bit se­ri­ous. I want to go into work, en­joy my­self – and en­ter­tain the lads.”

Parkin even­tu­ally wants a crack at man­age­ment when his play­ing days come to an end.

He’s also part of a grow­ing pod­cast called Un­der the Cosh with for­mer Pre­ston team-mate Chris Brown and an award-win­ning co­me­dian also called Chris Brown.

For now, while the body lets him, he’ll keep try­ing to knock in the goals at York as they eye pro­mo­tion from the National League North. Any re­grets? “I’ve been do­ing quite a few in­ter­views for the book and peo­ple say, ‘Do you think you could have played higher?’” he says.

“I don’t know if I was good enough for the Premier League, I don’t know if I was quick enough. I do feel if I lived my life prop­erly I could have stayed higher for longer. But the over­rid­ing fac­tor of it all is, I’ve had a bloody good time. I’ve right en­joyed it. Is that worth more than 50 Premier League ap­pear­ances? I think it is.”

Feed The Beast is avail­able in Water­stones, WH Smith, Ama­zon and all good book shops. It can also be down­loaded on Apple and Kin­dle.

PIC­TURE: Henry Browne

BIG STAGER: Jon Parkin cel­e­brates scor­ing for York at Wem­b­ley in the FA Tro­phy Fi­nal, as de­scribed in his new book ‘Feed The Beast’, In­set

EYE OF THE TIGER: In ac­tion for Hull City

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