BIG INTERVIEW: ‘The Beast’ Jon Parkin lifts the lid on his time at Preston North End

Jon Parkin celebrates his hat-trick against Leeds in September 2010
Jon Parkin celebrates his hat-trick against Leeds in September 2010

The clock had just ticked into the 64th minute at Elland Road on a September night in 2010.

Sean St Ledger’s clipped ball from just inside the Leeds half came the way of his Preston team-mate Jon Parkin on the edge of the box.

In one movement, Parkin rolled his marker to get a yard of space and drilled a low right-foot shot into the far bottom corner of the net.

A corner of the ground erupted in joy as 1,000 North End supporters celebrated what was the unlikeliest of comebacks.

In the other areas of the stadium, expletives were muttered in gruff West Yorkshire tones.

Parkin’s goal had just made it 5-4 to PNE, who had trailed 4-1 in the first half.

It was a hat-trick for the Barnsley-born frontman and there was more to come from the visitors as Iain Hume made it 6-4.

“What a surreal night that was, I don’t play FIFA but I can imagine it being like a game of FIFA,” said Parkin as he cast his mind back eight years.

“That was a game which I’ll remember for the rest of my days, to win 6-4 away at Leeds after being 4-1 down takes some doing.

“I’d put us 1-0 up after five or six minutes, which was an ideal start.

“But with five minutes to go to half-time we were 4-1 down and looking down and out.

“I scored again just before half-time and that just gave us a glimmer of hope that we could maybe go and get a draw.

“In the second half, Keith Treacy scored straight from a corner and then Callum Davidson equalised with a penalty – 4-4…amazing.

“Then I got my hat-trick goal which put us in front.

“It was a ball up to me from Ledge, I got past their guy and my shot found the corner of the net.

“Humey got a sixth goal and the whole placed was stunned.”

The hat-trick was among 32 goals Parkin scored in a 30-month stay at Deepdale.

Preston are one of 14 clubs he has served during a career spanning 20 years.

It is one which Parkin has put into print by the way of his autobiography ‘Feed the Beast.’

Let me say this right away – 
Parkin’s book is a big departure from the standard footballer’s autobiography.

And it’s all the better for that.

Forget cup finals, medals and clean living, this is an honest account of the 36-year-old’s life. From 
naked pole dancing in 
Krakow – days after having had knee surgery – to his battle with depression as a player at Cardiff, it is all there in black and white.

‘Feed the Beast’ has two forewords, one from Tony Pulis – his boss at Stoke who sold him to Preston – and raunchy novelist Jilly Cooper.

Parkin has taken his trade almost the length of the country, playing for Hull, Macclesfield, Stoke, PNE, Fleetwood and Forest Green Rovers among others.

It was during his couple of seasons at Forest Green that he got to know author Cooper – Rovers were her local club.

Parkin’s time at Preston features prominently in his book, and he rates Alan 
Irvine, who signed him, as the best manager he has played under.

“I have said it before, my time with Preston was one of the best spells of my career,” said Parkin.

“That first year especially was very good.

“I didn’t start well at Preston, I signed at the end of August and didn’t score until December. They were a fantastic set of lads and I really used to enjoy coming into work, even after driving on the M62 from Barnsley.

“My first Preston goal came against Doncaster on a Tuesday night and then I scored the following game against Birmingham.

“Both were winning goals and they got me going.

“We got to the play-offs that first season but lost to Sheffield United.

“Every time I see Billy Jones I mention the chance he missed in the last minute at Bramall Lane!

“It was Alan Irvine who signed me and then Darren Ferguson was next.

“I enjoyed it with Fergie – the Leeds game came during his time in charge.

“Preston then sold me to Cardiff, I had gone by the time Phil Brown came in, which I was glad about – he had managed me at Hull and we didn’t get on.”

It was while a Preston player that Parkin became a dad, his son Oliver someone who his life revolves around.

When Parkin scored in York City’s 3-2 FA Trophy win at Wembley a couple of years ago, Oliver was one of the mascots – a proud day for dad and lad.

So what tempted him to become an author?

Said Parkin: “I got a call a while back from my ghost writer who told me I had a good story to tell.

“Nothing happened at the time but then I decided to have a go at it.

“It is different than the standard autobiography – there are no England caps or tales of Champions League finals.

“If you are going to write a book you have to be honest and tell it how it is.

“There is stuff in the book about things I should not have done, but how many people get through life without doing things they look back on and cringe?

“Hopefully people will enjoy the read and have a good laugh.

“There are some serious moments and there is no point glossing over them – they happened.”

Jon Parkin’s autobiography ‘Feed the Beast’ is published by Sport Media and is available now in hardback, priced £18.99. It is a tale of ‘pints, pies, poles – and a belly full of goals’, with Tony Pulis and Jilly Cooper providing forewords. Novelist Cooper recalls how Parkin was first described to her as ‘hilarious, speaks his mind, party animal, refuses to sacrifice his social life for the sake of football’. Parkin has scored more than 200 goals in his career.