Jon Parkin “The Dancing Bear”

For long term readers of this blog you’ll know I’m a big NFL fan. The term dancing bear comes from the sport and it’s applied to an offensive tackle. For those who don’t know (or care) about American Football, the easiest way of describing an offensive tackle is it’s his job to protect the quarterback from getting hit by quick and aggressive defensive players on the outside of the line. If you’ve got really good offensive tackles and you’ve got a great quarterback, you’re halfway there. Anyway… I digress… these are big lads, and when you find an example of a great one, they are strong but they have incredibly good footwork enabling them to adjust quickly to pressure and keep the quarterback out of hospital. They are rare and get paid multi-millions because you shouldn’t have brilliant footwork and be their size and strength. Which leads me to this man, Jon Parkin because just like the dancing bears of the NFL he just shouldn’t have been as good as he was.

Apart from proper City fans of a certain age, Peter Taylor isn’t really given enough credit in my eyes. I don’t think we go to the Premier League without him, he built the foundations and turned us into a credible and very professional club from top to bottom. He also had an uncanny habit of finding a player that was a gem, or in some cases shining up a gem that was already here to be even better, see Bo Myhill for 50k, Damian Delaney for the same amount and Leon Cort on a free. Nationally I think he’s seen as more of a coach and for his unsuccessful stint at Leicester, which sells him significantly short. Right up there with anything he ever did though was bringing Jon Parkin from Macclesfield in January 2006. Struggling to adjust in the Championship after consecutive promotions you could see why his arrival wasn’t exactly met with gushing adoration by the fan base but that would almost instantly change as he scored on debut against Crystal Palace. In a season where we’d sometimes looked a little naive and got outmuscled City suddenly had an equaliser.

Parks was able to mix it with big centre backs in the Champ and hold up the ball for the likes of Nicky Barmby, Jason Price or Stuart Elliott but he also had some top end class. If you get a minute remind yourself of the 3-0 away win at Stoke on youtube, a game which was perhaps overshadowed by Bo Myhill saving two penalties, however the real highlight was Parks taking down a ball in the area, pinning his defender before chopping the living daylights out of the same player and calmly slotting it into the bottom corner for our second of the day.

It’s a little bit of a cliché, but it’s also true to say he became a talisman. We were punching above our weight and playing lots of clubs who were used to our name being synonymous with lower league football. Teams didn’t think they should be losing to the “likes of Hull”, thus the name of the blog and Jon was the epitome of Taylor’s team’s attitude in the second half of that season, we might not have been household names, but several of them were about to become them, and the attitude was definitely to “deal with us.”

Then there’s the reason he should never pay for a beer in Hull for the rest of his time, the winner vs Leeds United at home. Now, I’ve never been one to build up this game as a rivalry, unfortunately most Leeds fans are simply too arrogant or dim or both to understand why it matters to people in Hull. It matters because of the “Hull Whites” the gormless dimwits who not only betray their home city, but double down by smugly rubbing in their superiority at every chance. I don’t think we beaten them in a league game in nearly twenty years and that day was a long time coming. I’d somehow got hold of a ticket in the South Stand that day and can still see the moment the goal went in, Craig Fagan reworks the ball to the much underrated Stuart Green and as soon as he hangs up the cross to the back post you know how it ends, Parks towers over his marker to head into the bottom corner and mayhem ensues. He knee slides in front of the east stand to chaotic scenes and the monkey is well and truly lifted off our backs.

I think the big man scored one in 3 in that run in, despite playing a lone role quite a bit and we ended up staying up with room to spare. However that’s where the story takes an unexpected spiral for his time with us. Taylor leaves for Palace, the Phil Parkinson experiment is a disaster and it’s clear that he’s no fan of the Beast. He’s then replaced by Phil Brown, who you’d think would be more his sort of gaffer but they fall out and off he goes on loan to Stoke. I know Jon has a very strong opinion of his treatment by the perma-tanned, headset wearing crooner, and this doesn’t exactly correlate with our fan base as ultimately he delivered the impossible and took us to the Premier League the next year. In defence of Parks, I’d say two things, one Brown calling him out on the Radio in his absence was somewhat cowardly and allowed the player himself no right to reply, secondly and this is the bigger one for me, it only showed the canny management of Peter Taylor in a brighter light, Taylor knew who Parkin was and played to his strengths, with good wide play and an array of talented attacking midfielders like Barmby and Green who would thrive off his excellent hold up play. 1-0 to the management of Peter Taylor for me.

Parkin not only went on scoring goals throughout the divisions for another decade to underline this, but has since gone on to an incredibly successful podcasting career with “Undr the Cosh” alongside much less remembered City loan striker Chris Brown. I think it’s safe to say Jon Parkin was a character, and one we won’t see the likes of again, his ability belied his size and background but I’m not sure you could split the two, as Chris Brown said recently on the podcast if he was shredded and 13 stone I’m just not sure he’s the same player, I’d agree with that and I think a lot of City fans would agree that even if it was cut shorter than it could have been that the big man brought some belief to the team and some massive highlights to the fan base in his time with us. The beast was a breath of fresh air and definitely a dancing bear.