Parkin: Some Food For Thought
Three Decades On And Still A Case Of ‘If Only…..’
Thirty years on from his retirement as a player, the thought that Derek Parkin really should have won senior England caps still rankles.
And, as recently as this summer, I have been reminded of the guilt Bill McGarry felt at the fact the immaculate full-back remained overlooked by his country at the ultimate level.
Barely two weeks ago, I bought a signed copy of Derek’s testimonial year brochure at the tribute day to our close mutual friend Jim Heath and read with interest the comments in there from his long-time manager.
“In some ways, I will always blame myself for the fact Derek never won an England cap,” McGarry wrote. “I think I robbed him by moving him from right-back to left-back a few weeks after I took over at Molineux.
“I had signed Bernard Shaw to bolster the defence and he could not play on the left. ‘Squeak’ agreed to the switch and adapted remarkably well. But I have thought ever since that it almost certainly cost him his international chance – he would have got into the England side at right-back.
“But Derek never complained. That wasn’t his style. In my eight years at the club, I don’t think I had to discipline him for anything. And I can’t remember ever dropping him.”
No fewer than four other men with Molineux connections had dalliances with Sir Alf Ramsey’s no 3 role after it was vacated by World Cup winner Ray Wilson.
One, as we disclosed last week, was Cyril Knowles. The others were Bob McNab, Terry Cooper (yes, he had trials at Wolves as well) and Emlyn Hughes while Keith Newton also played there. Cooper went on to win 20 caps and Hughes 62, although not all of the latter’s were in that position.
As for the right-back slot in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Tommy Wright, Newton, Paul Reaney, Peter Storey, Chris Lawler and Paul Madeley were the men in competition, so there’s every reason to believe Parkin’s excellence would have earned him a chance had he stayed on the flank where his right-footedness was most naturally suited.
In the same 1979 brochure comes another view, this time from John Barnwell, as to why full international honours eluded Parkin.
“If I could fault him in any department, it is that in the days of brash, arrogant and occasionally very loud players, Derek has always maintained a calm and sometimes quiet composure,” he said. “Maybe this nature and lack of natural aggression have stopped him earning a full England cap.”
Parkin’s loss was presumably sometimes Wolves’ gain and he went on to play a club record 609 League and cup games for Wolves – a figure that could have been much higher on three fronts.
He played around 70 games for Huddersfield before arriving at Molineux and then spent a season and a quarter with Richie Barker at Stoke before calling time in the summer of 1983. In other words, he could conceivably have been at Wolves much longer.
On top of that service elsewhere, he also missed more than half of the 1972-73 campaign after picking up a virus on the summer tour of America, Australia and New Zealand that gave rise to a heart scare.
McGarry won four England caps – all of them, by coincidence, in the mid-1950s while he was with Huddersfield. But Derek had to be content with his five under-23 caps and a single appearance for the Football League.