Meeting up with Phil Parkes is always a pleasure. His views never fail to be forthright, heartfelt and entertaining. John Richards was not disappointed when he posed the questions put forward by our readers…..
Q: What do you consider was your best game for the Wolves, Phil? (from Wagstaffe was Magic)
A: I think my best performance was against Manchester United at Old Trafford in the FA Cup, when we drew one each. That was in the quarter finals in 1976. Disappointingly, we lost the replay 3-2 after being 2-0 up. The two UEFA cup semi-final legs against Ferencvaros were also memorable because I saved two penalties. I just stuck my foot out and deflected them!
Q: What was the best display by the team that you witnessed during your time there? (Wagstaffe was Magic)
A: I will turn again that UEFA Cup run in 1971-72 and the away leg against Juventus. Nobody gave us a chance. Everybody thought we would get hammered but we got a draw, then beat them 2-1 at Molineux. They were a top team at the time, with players like Helmut Haller, and went on to win the Italian League that season.
Q: Tell us what happened when you were sent off against the Albion. It seemed funny afterwards, once the anger of the ‘handball’ goal had worn off. (from highlandwolf)
A: That was at the beginning of the season after we were promoted in 1967. It was our first home game, my first local derby and, of course, coming from West Brom, it was a bit special for me! I saved a penalty, scored an own goal and got sent off. It doesn’t come any better than that! Tony Brown punched the ball into the net but the referee gave a goal. It was a full house, 50,000, and everybody except the referee and linesman saw what happened. Jeff Astle was mouthing off, so I had a go at him – and the ref ordered me off for foul and abusive language.
Q: You were left out of the 1974 League Cup final, although you were reportedly fit. I think I read somewhere that Sammy Chung had to break the news to you. What are your memories of that time? (from singwolf1)
A: No, that’s wrong. There was no way I was fit. On the Monday following the semi-final win against Norwich, I broke my ankle in training. As soon as it happened, I knew I wasn’t going to make the final, although I played in a reserve game in the week before Wembley. Bill McGarry didn’t want anybody to know I wasn’t going to be fit. He wanted to keep the pressure off Gary Pierce. It was a bit silly really for me to play. I didn’t have a lot to do but it didn’t do me any favours because it put me out of action for even longer. I missed 13 or 14 weeks altogether. It was wrong for McGarry to put me under pressure like that but he was a difficult man to say no to.
Q: Can you recall which player’s shot on goal was the hardest you saved? I don’t mean the most difficult but the one that most made your hands sting (from purplepault69)
A: Peter Lorimer, the Leeds player. He could hit them and you have to remember that, in those days, we didn’t have gloves. We were catching and saving heavy leather balls with just our bare hands. The first time I started wearing keeper gloves was when I went to play for Vancouver Whitecaps in 1978.
Q: What was the most memorable match that you were involved in for Wolves? (from reanswolf)
A: I have always said the most memorable were my first and last games. The first is always special – mine was against Preston in 1966 at Molineux and we won 3-2. Fred Davies was injured, so I was given a chance. And my last was at West Ham just before I went to Vancouver. I wasn’t expecting to play but Gary Pierce was injured and on the Friday night, Paul Bradshaw was taken ill. Sammy Chung rang me and asked if I would be on stand-by. I didn’t find out that I was actually playing until an hour before kick-off. I didn’t really want to play because I didn’t want to get injured before moving but we won 2-1 and I got the man of the match award, so it worked out well. It was a great way to finish.
Q: Who was the opponent that troubled you most (from Wagstaffe was Magic)
A: There were a lot in those days – the Davieses (Ron and Wyn), Malcolm Macdonald used to get stuck in and I always thought Peter Osgood was a quality player. There were a lot of good strikers and most teams played with wingers who knocked the crosses in. As a goalkeeper then, I was fair game. Today, you only have to touch the keeper and it’s a free kick. However, I like to think I gave as good as I got!
Q: I saw a lot of your games and, looking back, my impression is you generally didn’t get the credit you deserved. I know I have come to see you now as a better keeper than I did back then. Was that also your and your team-mates’ impression? (from wolvesjoe)
A: That could be said of a lot of players and, to be honest, I really don’t know. All I can say is that I played almost 400 first-team games for Wolves and, apart from my debut season, when we got promoted, they were all in the First Division (note: Gary Pierce was an ever-present in 1975-76). I kept being picked, so someone must have thought something of me. And, don’t forget, we had a lot of top keepers around – and most were English, like Banks, Bonetti, Shilton, Clemence, West, Corrigan. There were so many top quality keepers around.
Q: Have you ever spoken to Fabio Capello since that ‘incident’? (from waggys left foot)
A: No – and I don’t want to!
Q: What are your best and worst memories from your time with Wolves? (from Mugwump)
A: The best are some of the friendships I made and still have today. Great friendships with people like Waggy, Frank and Mike. There are a lot of the lads still living in the area and we meet up as often as we can. It really is good to have that comradeship. The worst was missing the 1974 League Cup final. However, I’d have to say that we had more good times than bad ones.
Q: Do you wish that that the picking-up of back passes had been banned in your day? How would you have adapted? (from Wolvesjoe)
A: I think I could have coped. If I may say so, I had a good left foot. But you also have to bear in mind the pitches they play on nowadays. It would have been a lot more difficult for us with the condition of some of the pitches. Recently, I was talking to Tim Flowers, who has just had a hip operation. He said that although the pitches are good for playing on, they are not so good for diving because they are quite hard. He believes that was the cause of his hip problem.
Q: The England goalkeeping department hasn’t been particularly strong in recent decades. Were you disappointed to have played in an era when it seemed every top club had a decent English keeper? (from Kevin Jones)
A: I’ve already mentioned some of the English keepers around in my time. We were spoilt for choice. Now, we struggle to get regular serious competition for the position. Euro 2016 showed how important it is to have a world-class keeper but it wasn’t just Joe Hart making mistakes. A lot of the keepers were. There’s no doubt the ball moves around a lot more and that was a factor in the goal Gareth Bale scored against England. However, my belief is that Hart didn’t need a wall from that distance. In training, if you’d given Gareth Bale ten shots at goal from that distance, with just a goalkeeper, I doubt he would have scored one. At Vancouver, the coach was a former keeper, Tony Waiters. He said if the wall is outside the box, there’s no need for it. It means the free-kick is 30 yards out and, if the ball flies into the top corner, he as the goalkeeper would accept the blame. A wall, defending a free-kick from that distance, makes little difference. I learned a lot from Tony and I reckon I was a better goalkeeper at Vancouver than at any other time in my career. He used to discuss things about my game with me. With McGarry, if he thought I’d made a mistake, he would come in the dressing room and lay into me. Tony would ask me what I thought about a goal and could I have done better? Sometimes I’d agree but other times I’d disagree and we would review the video. To his credit, he was always quick to put his hand up and tell me if I’d been right. We didn’t have specialist goalkeeping coaches in our day. At Vancouver, I had more goalkeeping coaching than I’d ever had at Wolves.
Q: The new Wolves academy has pretty impressive facilities available to all age groups. You joined Wolves straight from school – what was it like being a young player there in those days? (from purplepault69)
A: I went to the opening of the new academy. It’s very impressive – quite a contrast to my own experiences as a young player. When I joined Wolves, I didn’t actually go on to the groundstaff. The club found me a job. I worked in a factory for two years – a steel construction company in West Brom – and I trained Tuesdays and Thursdays. And that was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was getting up at 6.30am to clock on. It taught me about life. It was a great grounding. When I stopped playing, it wasn’t hard for me to go back into work. In fact, Ryan Giggs was talking the other day on television about today’s youngsters earning so much money without being successful. He was questioning whether they needed or wanted to be successful when they got the money regardless. They don’t clean boots, they don’t sweep the grounds. Players not in the first team are driving beautiful cars and wearing Rolex watches, so where’s the incentive? Kids nowadays go straight from school into the academies. They really haven’t a clue about life outside of that. It comes too easy and I don’t think that’s good for them. They get the trimmings without having to work for them.
Q: Did you know the lady in the South Bank who used to throw a full pack of Wrigley’s spearmint just before kick off? (from Kevin Jones)
A: No I didn’t but she started something. In the end, I had four or five people doing it – I had so many packets of Wrigley’s chewing gum, it was unbelievable.
Q: Top man Lofty, loved watching you play – stay fit. mate! (from Edgmond Wolf)
A: Thank-you. I will try.