Weekend Interview: No pressure as ‘The Beast’ Jon Parkin keeps on smiling

KEEP ON SMILING: Jon Parkin, in action for York City against FC United of Manchester last season. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
KEEP ON SMILING: Jon Parkin, in action for York City against FC United of Manchester last season. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
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JON PARKIN, by his own admission, has “defied logic by being a footballer for 20 years”.

Here is someone who is rarely happier than when enjoying a pint or three in Barnsley with the same mates he had at school.

He also loves a good pie, something that has driven countless managers to distraction during a career that has featured more than 600 appearances for 14 clubs.

Many, including Tony Pulis who writes an affectionate foreword to Parkin’s newly-published autobiography, tried to alter the refuelling habits of a striker the fans aptly nicknamed ‘Beast’. The man himself, however, could not be swayed.

“Maybe I could have had a better career,” admits Parkin, still leading the line at York City in National League North, to The Yorkshire Post. “And maybe I will look back once I have finished and think, ‘I could have played higher if I had looked after myself’.

“But I have had a good time and been myself. I have always wanted to go to work with a smile on my face and never been one to feel the pressure.

BIG MOVE: Jon Parkin, in action for Hull City against Plymouth Argyle back in 2006. Picture: PA.

BIG MOVE: Jon Parkin, in action for Hull City against Plymouth Argyle back in 2006. Picture: PA.

“If we get beat, we get beat. If we win, we win. But, by 5.15pm, I have put it all to bed and am looking forward to my pint on a Saturday night.

“There is a saying in football I like. ‘Win or lose, hit the booze – but if you draw, have some more’.”

Parkin’s love for life was apparent right at the very start of his career with hometown club Barnsley.

Not only did his debut for the reserves one evening come just a couple of hours after he had devoured a fish and chips supper but the afternoon had also been spent enjoying intimate relations with a girl.

Whatever I have done over these past 20 years, it has not changed me. People get sucked into a certain way of thinking. ‘I am a footballer, I am this, I am that…’ Players, especially, get confused as to who they are. But that has never been me.

Jon Parkin

“I was in the squad but never thought for a second I’d be involved,” explains Parkin with a smile. “But what I hadn’t realised was the rules had changed and now there were five subs and not three. I came on at the start of the second half and did okay.”

This and countless other tales are chronicled in ‘Feed the Beast’, as lively a read as is to be expected from someone who has lived life to the full.

“I wanted the book to be honest,” added the striker. “There was no point doing it otherwise. Plus, there has been a story behind every club I left that the fans never hear.

“The reason I left Barnsley was Steve Parkin. Hull was Phil Brown and then I told Brian Horton what I did at Macclesfield.”

Jon Parkin battles for the ball for Doncaster Rovers against Leeds United's Adam Clayton in 2011. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA

Jon Parkin battles for the ball for Doncaster Rovers against Leeds United's Adam Clayton in 2011. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA

Ah yes, Macclesfield. The club where his career really got going. A two-year spell at York had helped Parkin love football again after leaving Barnsley but the switch to Moss Rose in 2004 got the goals flowing.

So much so, in fact, that Hull City, two levels above in the Championship, soon came calling. A bid was lodged but Brian Horton was determined to drive up the price.

Parkin, however, just wanted to move and told his manager, in no uncertain terms, that if the deal didn’t go ahead then he wouldn’t play another game all season.

The ploy worked, albeit only after he had failed a medical over a knee problem and agreed a shorter contract with the Tigers.

“Looking back, that was the one time in my career when I came out of a meeting and thought, ‘I might have been a bit out of order there’,” recalls Parkin.

“But I had to do it. 100 per cent I had to and, luckily enough, it ended up working out and I played in the Championship for eight, 10 years or whatever it was.”

Jon Parkin. Picture submitted.

Jon Parkin. Picture submitted.

Life under Peter Taylor at the KC Stadium suited Parkin, who had more than doubled his wages to £3,000 per week with another £500 per appearance and £500 per goal. Just as importantly, he was just an hour from Barnsley.

But then Taylor left for Crystal Palace and was replaced by Phil Parkinson. Not for the first or last time, Parkin was about to fall foul of a newly-appointed manager.

“I felt I started quite well under Phil and scored five in the first seven or eight games,” said the striker.

“But managers do come in with their own ideas. Most come into a football club, see Jon Parkin and think, ‘He should not look like that, he should be living differently’.

“It is different if someone has signed me, they know exactly what they are getting. But people have a pre-conceived idea of what a footballer should be and I am not it.

“I have never worried about it. I always say, ‘If you don’t want me, just tell me and I’ll move on’. I won’t get het up about it or upset.”

As it turned out, Parkin lasted longer at Hull than Parkinson. The manager’s dismissal after just five months saw Phil Brown appointed. Steve Parkin arrived soon after as his assistant.

A move to Stoke suited all parties, initially on loan and then on a permanent basis during the summer of 2007. Twelve months later, the Potters were celebrating promotion but Parkin was on the move again early the following season to Preston North End.

In the decade since, he has played for a host of clubs, including Doncaster Rovers, Huddersfield Town and now back at York. Parkin’s goals tally stands north of 200 but he insists little else has changed.

“I like to think I am the same kid I was at 16,” he said. “Whatever I have done over these past 20 years, it has not changed me. People get sucked into a certain way of thinking. ‘I am a footballer, I am this, I am that…’ Players, especially, get confused as to who they are. But that has never been me.

“The truth is a footballer just happens to be good at something people enjoy watching. You play football – brilliant. People come and watch you – brilliant. But you are not a God, just an ordinary bloke.”

Parkin, now 36, is very much in the twilight of his career. A move into coaching appeals, which begs the question as to how Jon Parkin the manager would handle Jon Parkin the player?

“Depends if he is scoring or not,” laughs the York striker. “If he finds the net, let him do what he wants.

“No, seriously, you have to assess every player on their merits. I am never going to do things that others can. But I can do stuff they can’t. There is not an exact science. Every player is different or we would be like robots.”

Asked how long he expects to continue playing, Parkin replied: “It is getting harder. My knee is sore every day. Luckily, I don’t train at York as much as everyone else here. That helps me a lot.

“I am in the gym when the lads are training on Monday, Tuesday, whatever. But, as long as I seem to be contributing, I will keep going. The last thing I want to be is deadwood.

“If I get to that stage, that will be it for me. Done. And then I’ll get to Magaluf on holiday.”

Jon Parkin: 20 years of highs and lows ...

IN a career that has seen plenty of highs and lows, Jon Parkin is in no doubt as to the worst moment.

“Getting relegated with York was awful,” he says about the 2017 demotion that took the Minstermen into the sixth tier for the first time in the club’s history. “The worst point in my career. It was the first time I had been relegated in my career. We played at Wembley a few weeks later in the FA Trophy and, if I am honest, I wasn’t that bothered.”

Parkin did score the opening goal under the Arch as York beat Macclesfield Town in that final. It was his second success at Wembley, Fleetwood Town’s promotion via the League Two play-offs in 2014 coming on the first of three outings at the national stadium. The other ended in heartache for Forest Green Rovers in the National League play-offs.

His other promotion came with Stoke City in 2007-08, the Barnsley-born striker making 29 appearances - most from the bench - as Tony Pulis’ men pipped Hull City to runners-up spot in the Championship.

As enjoyable as these successes were, however, his favourite time came elsewhere. “I loved it at Preston,” said the striker, who famously netted a hat-trick in a 6-4 win for North End at Leeds. “Some of my best football was there but it was the atmosphere I loved. It was 110 miles each way but I didn’t mind because it was such fun.”