An FA Youth Cup Winners medal, a UEFA Cup Winners medal, a Wembley appearance in the FA Charity Shield, Sir Bobby Robson’s ‘bench-warmer’ and 16 appearances for Wivenhoe Town.
Tommy Parkin’s footballing career is not exactly overflowing with stories of success, which kind of matches the description of his short Dragon’s career.
Wivenhoe were embarking on their first season in the Premier Division of the Isthmian League and the management of the time obviously felt that the acquisition of the very experienced Parkin was just the sort of player they needed to strengthen the team. His versatility in being able to operate on the right-hand side of midfield or at right fullback was an additional attraction, as well as his proven track record in the Non- League game at Bury Town. During his two years at Bury he had been a regular target for a number of the region’s top Non- League clubs, all keen to secure his services. So it was in the summer of 1990 that Wivenhoe managed to prise Parkin away from the Ram Meadow side.
Obviously he was then acting out the last years of his playing career, which had started out so promisingly at Portman Road as a young lad. During his early days he was a member of Ipswich Town’s 1973 FA Youth Cup winning side, which was to spawn so many household names in later years. After turning professional in December 1973 he had to wait five years for his first taste of first team action, with only reserve team football and loan outings to Grimsby and Peterborough on his CV. He was cruelly, although accurately, dubbed Mr Reserve Team as he regularly kept Sir Bobby company in the first team dugout. Appearances were few and far between – at 27 years of age he was still waiting to make his 20th appearance. A change of Bobby’s in 1983 made little difference to Parkin, although to be fair Bobby Ferguson did make a little more use of him than his predecessor. By the time he was released by Ipswich in 1987 he had managed to cobble together 82 appearances (no goals) in 13 years. A place on the bench (surprise, surprise !) for the 2nd leg of the UEFA Cup Final against AZ67 Alkmaar earned him a sole medal for his efforts.
Parkin in a rare moment not sitting on the bench.
A switch in towns in the summer of 1987, from Ipswich to Bury, resulted in him leaving the professional game for the delights of the Southern League, where he performed admirably for a couple of seasons before joining Wivenhoe.
Parkin made his first appearance for the club in a pre-season friendly with Harwich & Parkeston, playing at right fullback in a 2-3 defeat on the rolling slopes of The Royal Oak, with Steve Wright and Lil Fuccillo scoring our goals. His debut at Broad Lane came against Colchester United a few days later in front of a bumper crowd of 1,134. The U’s managed to squeeze home 1-0. A 2-0 win at Southern League Baldock Town followed, Keith Bain and Steve Clark getting the goals, before Sudbury Town were defeated by the same score-line a week later at The Priory Stadium. Steve Clark scored both for The Dragons.
The final pre-season friendly that summer saw the Essex Olympian League side Takeley, destroyed 10-0 here at Broad Lane, with the ‘Hoe three goals up in the first 12 minutes as the team confirmed they knew where the back of the opponent’s net was !
Records show that Parkin played a full 90 minutes in all five friendlies that summer – one of only three players to do so – and not unsurprisingly failing to score from his defensive position in the back four.
His full League debut was the opening game of the 1990-91 campaign as Wivenhoe started life in the Premier Division of the Isthmian League against Staines Town at Broad Lane. It was a dream start for the club as a 3-0 win sent the vast majority of the 673 crowd home happy. The team made a competent start result-wise and home games were getting average attendances around the 300 mark. However, Parkin’s contribution to the team’s efforts appeared to be falling short of the required standards. He played his part in the first eleven games, but as I recall – and the memory isn’t quite what it used to be ! – didn’t look too comfortable, being caught out for his lack of pace on a number of occasions and giving the ball away unfortunately regularly. Indeed the football club’s fanzine at the time – Look For Floodlights – ‘honoured’ him with the ‘Most Celebrated Departure Award’ at the end of the season, which goes some way to sum up the general feeling of those on the terraces had toward him.
For whatever reason Parkin left the club after 16 appearances (plus 5 friendlies), heading to Eastern Counties League Harwich & Parkeston for a short period before leaving them for league rivals Braintree Town. Occasional outings were made for Suffolk & Ipswich league side Ransomes, before the trail goes cold and one can only assume that Tommy Parkin decided to hang up his boots.
With thanks to Richie G. for providing us with this article.