Parkin A Record-Breaker Among Legends

A Quality Full-Back – Too Right

By John Richards

Our interview with Derek Parkin in this area is long overdue…..he is, after all, the record appearance-maker in Wolves’ history. Once more, the feature is based on questions set by our readers…..

Q: Am I correct in saying that, when you signed for Wolves, you were a right-back before becoming our left-back for all those years? (From Fleet Wolf)

Q: How did you come to be one of the best left-backs we’ve ever had, as your right foot was your dominant side? (From Wallace)

Bernard Shaw - also better on the right.

A: Yes, I was a right-back at Huddersfield and came to Wolves in that position. I was hopeless with my left foot. I stayed in that role until Bernard Shaw was signed by Bill McGarry – he was also right-footed but was signed to play at left-back. He was like me, though. He couldn’t kick with his left, so McGarry stuck me out there. After a time, I got better with my left foot but I did feel awkward. I got away with it really. I would have been a lot more comfortable on the right, every time, as that was my natural position. If you look at any old videos, I always tended to bring the ball on to my right. I could kick with my left foot but not as accurately as with my right.

Q: Did you ever feel that you might have had full international recognition and would your chances have been enhanced if you had stayed right-back? (From Saltyjim)

A: That’s very difficult to answer. I don’t know. There were a lot of good full-backs around at the time. Ray Wilson was my mentor when I was at Huddersfield, although I never played with him. What a great player – probably one of the best full-backs I’ve ever seen. His move to Everton gave me my chance of getting into the team at Huddersfield. We also had Bob McNab there and then Chris Cattlin. Chris and I went into the team at about the same time. Huddersfield always produced good full-backs.

Q: Who had the most influence in the dressing room while you were with Wolves? (From Wallace)

A: It has to be Mike Bailey and The Doog. They were the personalities in the dressing room, the ones with the experience and the ones prepared to have their say. Mike, in particular, was a good player and a natural leader.

Q: You played in a side full of Wolves legends. It might be an unfair question but which of all the great players you played alongside did you admire the most and why? (From Harlow Wolf)

A: That’s another difficult question because we had so many good players in the early 1970s – Mike Bailey, Big Frank, Scouse, Hibby, Waggy, yourself. The list goes on and on. At that time, we had a really good team. I don’t think we realised how good a team we were. It’s only when you look back that you see how much success we had at the time.

Q: Who was the best left-winger or left-sided midfielder you played behind? (From Bridgnorthwolf)

A: It has to be Waggy and, I have to be honest, I don’t know what made him so good. He was just a natural talent. He could drop the ball on a sixpence. He was a bit frustrating at times but that’s the mark of a great player. There were a lot of us who had to work hard to improve our games but Waggy just did it naturally. He’d sit and have a cigarette, do the crossword and go out and play the game.

Q: If you could have picked one area in the side that could have been strengthened, which would it have been? (From Oldgold Wolfcub)

A: It’s a different game now, there’s a squad system. It wasn’t the case of us needing strengthening in any one particular area. We probably could have done with another three or four players in the first-team squad to cover for injuries. But it didn’t work that way in those days. The difficulty would have been keeping players happy. Players want to play and we were only allowed one substitute then.

Q: I’m not expecting instant recall on the 609 games that you played for Wolves but was there one opponent that always gave you a tough time? (From purplepault69)

A: Mike Summerbee at Man City and Terry Paine of Southampton were tough opponents. Both were difficult to play against. They were both very aggressive, which was unusual in our day for a winger.

Q: Which other team of your era would you have loved to play for and why? (From Hicko)

A: Liverpool were a great team in the early 1970s under Bill Shankly. All the time I played, they were a top side. Anfield was the place to play, with the best atmosphere. What a great stadium! The first time I played there, I counted their players coming off at half-time. I thought they must have four or five more than us – we were chasing shadows. They chased you all the time. They were the country’s top team for a long time, started by Shankly and carried on by Bob Paisley. If I hadn’t gone to Wolves, I would have loved to play for them.

Q: During your pomp in the early 1970s, was there ever any chance of you moving away from Wolves? (From Saltyjim)

A: I don’t know. I heard rumours but we were never told anything in those days. It’s totally different now with agents and newspapers leaking news but we didn’t have any of that. We were kept in the dark.

Q: What would you say was the biggest game you played in for Wolves? I can’t remember if you played in the UEFA Cup final but you were certainly in the League Cup wins (From Vietnam Wolf)

Q: Which of the two League Cup finals was the greatest occasion in your opinion? I cannot separate them – they were both magnificent in different ways. The League Cup was not the poor relation it is now and it certainly was a great achievement at the time. (From reanswolf) 

Bonus time.....Parkin (left) watches Paul Bradshaw's safe hands exude control at Wembley in 1980.

A: Probably the 1974 League Cup final. It was a great day and a great side. We couldn’t believe that we had actually beaten Man City because it wasn’t expected. Wembley was fantastic. I wish every player could play there at least once in their career. It really is special. It was a fantastic day. It was Mike Bailey’s day. It was a bonus for us to go back in 1980 and again win against the odds. We were very lucky. Also getting to the UEFA Cup final was a hell of a feat. It was only because we played against another English team that we didn’t get the recognition I think we deserved. I didn’t realise it while we were playing but recently someone told me that our era was the second most successful time in the club’s history, after the great team of the 1950s.

Q: What was it like leaving Wolves after all those years and appearances? (From Burton Wolf)

A: I didn’t really want to leave but the club were going under and my contract was up. I enjoyed my time at Wolves and wouldn’t want to change anything. Who’s to say I would have had the same sort of career if I’d gone anywhere else? I had a great relationship with the supporters and still do. It was the right time to go. You know inside when that time is. What is surprising is when you think of the business side at the club, there were lots of players who left and they got nothing for them. I should have gone when I was about 28, so they could have recouped their money, and that applied to a lot of the other lads. They made nothing from them. Moving earlier in our careers might have done us good. You do become stale and being at a different club lifts you.

Q: You obviously played most of your football under Bill McGarry, although I can’t remember whether he brought you in or Ronnie Allen. What did McGarry do most to help your game and what do you think were his strengths and weaknesses? (From Oldgold Wolfcub)

A: Ronnie Allen signed me. I think he left a good team for Bill McGarry to take on. With Bill, it was difficult to put your finger on but there was just something missing. I quite liked the guy. He was a bit of a tough nut but, as long as you did as you were told and worked hard, he was ok with you. There was also the fear factor, which worked. However, as I said, there was just something missing; something that could have just made us a really great side. We were good and we were up there at the top end of the League on a number of occasions, which takes some doing with the good sides about at that time.

Q: How did the other managers you played for compare? (from Oldgold Wolfcub)

A: I also got on well with John Barnwell. With Richie Barker, they did a good job at Wolves under difficult circumstances. He picked the club up and got us to another League Cup final, which was a hell of an achievement for a club on the decline. I liked John’s honesty and openness, and the same with Richie. I didn’t always agree with Richie’s philosophy and the way of playing – launching long balls down the line all the time. I was too old to change. I still respected him as a person because he was big enough to tell you to your face if he felt you’d done something wrong. He didn’t hide behind someone else. Which is why I went to Stoke when Richie was the manager there. He rang me at home and asked me to sign. I told him I couldn’t play for him with his style of play. To his credit, he said he’d been wrong. He said he hadn’t realised how good the players were at Wolves, so I’ve a lot of respect for him.

Q: How did your heart problem affect your ability to play at the top level and are you ok now? (From wallace)

Q: You were out for most of a season in the early 1970s…..what did you do during that time? Why did the docs take so long to give you the all-clear? (From singwolf 1)

A: The heart abnormality was actually diagnosed in the end as being a ‘normal’ abnormality for me. It was something my heart had adjusted to. For some reason, it was classed as normal in me. They tried to suggest it might have been something I picked up from our trip to Australia in 1972 but it wasn’t. It’s something I’d always had and still have now. At the time, however, it was very worrying. I went to see a specialist at Brompton Hospital in London. They had a look inside with a camera. It was the specialist who gave me the all-clear. He said everything was fine. What a relief that was! That was when McGarry was good. He stood by me. I was out for around six months. They had to make sure. As you can imagine, it was one hell of a shock. You’re fit as a fiddle, then you’re told you could die of a heart attack if you play again. It was very frightening as I was only 23 and had just bought a house and had a young family.

Q: Do you think that the role of full-back has changed since you were playing? (From purplepault69)

A: Definitely. In our day, my first thought was to hit the ball to you or Doog, down the line. If I didn’t, I’d get a rollicking off McGarry and the crowd would be on your back. Get the ball forward, they screamed! If I’d knocked it square, I’d have got a roasting. That’s what I wanted to do but they wouldn’t let me.

Q: Who would you say is the best left-back we’ve had at the Wolves since you retired? (From Vietnam Wolf)

A: Andy Thompson was a good, little player and the blond-haired guy who used to live in Codsall – Mark Venus. I thought he was a nice player.

Q: If Wolves circa 1970-73 played against the current team, who would win and why? (From singwolf 1)

A: It’s difficult to compare but that team of the early 1970s was one of the best in the country at the time. Don’t forget, we reached the UEFA Cup final by beating some of the best teams in Europe. My son Noel recently bought me a video of the 1974 League Cup final. It was the first time I’d seen it and I was surprised by how fast and aggressive the game was. It was non-stop. You didn’t have time to breathe. Tackles were flying in and players were just getting up and getting on with it. People talk about the speed of the game now but that match was played at quite a pace. At the moment, the ambitions of the team are just to avoid relegation. That was never a consideration with our team. Also, and probably the biggest difference between the two sides, is the number of players we had who were capable of scoring goals – and not just the strikers. We had midfielders like Kenny Hibbitt and Jim McCalliog knocking in as many goals as strikers do nowadays. They had to score goals. It was expected of them.

Proof of the long service.....

Q: I saw you play through your career at Wolves but never knew where the nickname ‘Squeak’ came from (From derbyrameater)

A: Mike Bailey gave it to me. I used to shout to him for the ball and, every time I did, he kept laughing because he thought my voice was high-pitched.

Thomas Publications
www.footiepix.co.uk