Feed the beast and he will talk. VFTN recently caught up with former Bluebird striker Jon Parkin. His career spanned an impressive 20 years so far, boasting 221 goals in over 600 appearances for clubs such as Stoke City, Huddersfield Town, Barnsley, Hull City, Preston North End and of course the best of the lot, Cardiff City.
Parkin, who stands at 6”4 and weighs 19 stone, is known for his physical hold up play, his ability to win pretty much any physical battle and, of course, his extreme knack of finding the net. In his own words, “I’m just an average fella from Barnsley whose ended up playing football for a bit”
How’s it going Jon?
I’m very well, thank you. Did you say 19 stone then?
Well, it was off Wikipedia
Wikipedia can get fucked. If I were 19 stone, I’d consider going on a diet!
To be fair, I saw you went on a charity bike ride raising money for cancer the other weekend. You rode all the way to Amsterdam didn’t you?
Yeah, last weekend. We done the Barnsley to Amsterdam for Prostate Cancer. I’ve got to be honest, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Twenty years in football, l I’ve never done anything as hard as that. I felt horrendous. Because of an operation I had, the first time I got on my bike was the Friday morning that we were setting off! It absolutely wrecked my arse, but that was probably fourth or fifth on the list of my ailments. Especially with the size of my arse. I think it was 145 miles in total
So what’s going on with you? Have you got plans to play for another team next season? (Parkin was released by York)
I really don’t know what I’m doing. As I said, with the operation I had and if I’m honest, I just haven’t decided what I wanna do yet. I just have to wait and see. I’ve got a lot of stuff going off with the ‘Under The Cosh’ podcast at the moment. It’s gone a lot better than what we expected. When we first started last February, we thought five thousand downloads a week would be alright, but we’re up to 1.1 million downloads. We’ve got the YouTube channel as well which is kicking off. Yeah, it’s just gone a lot better than we ever could have imagined, really.
You scored 20 goals in 28 league games the previous season and just 3 goals in 22 games last season. Do you still think you can do a job in the National League?
Yeah, I know if I play a solid run of 40 games, I’ll get 20 goals. I’m very confident of that. I might not run a lot, but if you’re wanting goals, I’m confident I can get them. I’ve not lost my pace because I never had any to lose. It’s all about getting in the right areas and, no disrespect to National League defenders, but a lot seem to ball-watch, so you don’t even have to move a lot. That comes with experience though and the knowledge through playing as many games as I have.
One thing I always admired when watching you play is how you’re able to win pretty much every header and put a lot of power on the ball without even barely jumping off the ground. Is this intuition? Reading the game well? What’s your take?
Well, I’ve not been in a gym since I were 18, so it’s not because I done weights or nothing like that. I think it’s just experience, getting to know the flight of the ball and knowing where the centre half is. I guess it’s just experience and I like to think I’ve got a half decent touch once I do hold the defender off. I don’t like jumping for the ball. I’ve had my nose broken a few times and when you start jumping for the ball, that’s when you start getting cuts. I’m ugly enough as it is.
Talking of Cardiff is that a move you honestly regret? I read in your book you were diagnosed with situational depression by our club doctor due to the way you were being treated by management, and of course being so far away from your family. For any Cardif fans, not that you owe us any form of explanation, is there anything you wish went differently while you were at Cardiff?
Yeah, play more!
It wasn’t an easy time, but I was lucky because I moved out to a little village near Cowbridge close to Mark Hudson. It was a really remote village, which was just as well because if I were in the city in that situation with the lovely, vibrant city it is, I’d have just been going out every night making matters worse for myself. Living there done me a lot of good. It couldn’t have gotten any more quiet in that village. I remember, I drove back from training once and I’m about to open my car door and a horse walks right past me on its own just in the middle of the street. I were like, “Fucking hell. Jesus Christ. Where am I here, on Mars?!”
From our perspective, well certainly mine, a lot of people did rate your signing with the season you were having for Preston. I remember you scoring a hat -trick against Leeds earlier on and of course your debut goal against Norwich which made me genuinely excited about having you on our books.
Yeah, well I was signed as back up to Jay Bothroyd no doubt, which I were fine with. I was initially signed by Dave Jones, who I think signed me because I always used to score against Cardiff. The sort of player I was, I need to be playing every week. If I missed three or four games, I’d struggle when I finally got another game because I couldn’t keep myself fit in training.
Pretty much from the start I tried making an impression on Malky (Mackay), but whether he didn’t like that I was always at the forefront, I don’t know. I’ve always been opinionated and if I’ve got something to say, I’ll say it. I don’t think he liked that. He liked the ethos to be very army regimental and I couldn’t follow that. I know it’s his style of management, but we were bloody grown men. It’s not a classroom. Obviously when I put on twitter; “Looking for a new job. Does anybody need a gardener?” which made it to the national newspapers, he pulled me into his office and that was probably the final straw.
You had some quality players around you in your first season such as Bothroyd, Craig Bellamy, Michael Chopra, Peter Whittingham etc. Possibly making it even more difficult to get that run of games as you say.
Yeah, definitely. The situation we were in at the top of the table, I knew if Jay was fit he’d always play. I never stood a chance, as I needed those run of games to be at my best.
Talking of Bothroyd, didn’t you once say he was your least favourite person in football? Citing a certain instance of him and Chopra once arguing over who had the most Gucci apparel as a prime example. Did that affect team spirit, as it seemed from the outside there were a lot of ego in that team?
Yeah, it was D&G gear, but even so, it doesn’t matter what gear it is, that’s tragic. The team spirit were fine. Bellamy was fine, he kept himself to himself. It was a fantastic group of about 8-10 of us, who used to go out and socialise. Me, Hudson, Kevin McNaughton, Gavin Rae, Stephen McPhail, Quinny and David Marshall. Then you had all the other loan players, who came in who kept themselves to themselves and probably came down more for a party more than anything else, which killed us I think.
Didn’t you have to pay for your own Carling Cup Final ticket as well, eventhough you played & scored in our fixtures?
Yeah, I did. I phoned up the ticket office and asked do I get a ticket to the final and they said no you don’t get any for free, but you can buy one if you want. I should have had a medal really!
Did you not get a medal?!
Did I fuck!
You mentioned in your book that it was like a team of spies working for Malky with his coaches apparently reporting every negative thing said in training back to him.
Me and Kenny (Miller) were doing a warm, up just having a chat, saying; “They’re all fucking spies, his staff.” I went on loan to Huddersfield and when I came back, he only pulled me and Kenny in to his office and said; “What’s this you’ve been saying about all my staff being snakes and spies?” and I was like, “Fucking hell, obviously they are aren’t they because you’re telling me off for saying it! Are you for real or what?” I still watch out for Cardiff’s results. I don’t have anything against the club, they were fantastic to me. As I said, it’s just Malky.
One thing I’ve always wondered regarding the ayatollah, if you remember it, is are you told how to do this when you come to the club or is it something you just pick up as it happens?
Yes, I remember that well! To be fair, I think one of the lads tells you about it so I knew what the crack was with it when I arrived.
Is it true you threw out every diet plan every club ever gave you when you signed for them?
Yeah. Most clubs I went to wanted me to work with a fitness coach. Why fucking sign me? You know what I look like. They’d try getting me to do weights, so I was like if you want me to do weights, let’s take our clothes off and have a wrestle and they’d all shit their pants.
But do you think if you’d actually followed those fitness regimes, anything would have been different?
Maybe, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed my life. Obviously, it would have been fantastic playing in the Premier League, but I’d be on the front pages every week and I didn’t want that. You’ve got to have a life as well. You can’t do the stuff you can do at 22 when you’re 40. It probably has held me back a bit, but I wouldn’t change it. I’ve had a 20-year career and I’ve had a good time doing it.
So it begs the question; in the modern game, could another Jon Parkin exist?
Not a chance. Not a cat in hell’s chance. If I were 18 now, I wouldn’t have a chance of making it. By 18, I’d been fined two weeks wages for going out!
Finally Jon, Wycombe striker Adebayo Akinfenwa also calls himself the beast. Who’d win in a fight between you both?
Oh him, one hundred percent. Are you kidding me?! He’d put his arms around me and crush me! He’d have half a chance against Anthony Joshua, never mind me!