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It’s all about Parkes life for Padiham’s Martin
AS a 17-year-old Martin Parkes was gutted to miss out on one of the biggest games in Padiham’s history.
The Storks were the first travelling opponents for new breakaway team FC United of Manchester, playing in front of a bumper crowd of almost 2,500 at Bury’s Gigg Lane ground back in August 2005.
It ended in frustration for the North West Counties League side, as they were beaten 3-2.
But Parkes would have given anything to be involved.
Having earned his debut, aged just 16, in the final game of the previous season at New Mills (his encyclopedic memory for matches instantly recalls a 3-3 draw), and been involved with senior squad’s pre-season, the midfielder was disappointed to find himself back in the reserves.
Early optimism that he would be involved in manager Steve Wilkes’ plans was quashed, but only momentarily.
Parkes has since made up for that absence in spades, and just a fortnight ago clocked up his 250th appearance for the club he has served as man and boy.
He is already looking to his half century.
“If I can get to 500 that will be the next target,” said the 24-year-old, who reached his latest milestone in a home draw with Bacup Borough on ‘Non-League Day’, fittingly – topping the occasion off with a goal.
“With 42 league games and cup runs possibly taking it up to 55-60 in a season then I could do that by the time I’m 29 hopefully.
“I’ve been lucky so far because I’ve never missed more than one game at a time through injury.
“I’ve missed the odd one with a dead leg and a couple through work,” added Parkes, who by day is a teacher at All Saints’ RC High School in Rawtenstall.
“But there haven’t been any major injuries, touch wood.”
To mark his milestone, he was presented with a bottle of whisky by the club chairman and match sponsor Frank Heys – a touching gesture, if not a well researched one. Parkes is not a single malt man.
He is, however, a club man and made sure the gift didn’t go to waste.
“I donated it back for the whisky draw,” smiled the versatile midfielder and all-round sports fan, who hails from Accrington but now lives closer to work in Haslingden.
No wonder, then, that his specialist subject at school is physical education.
“I’ve always liked sport and can turn my hand to quite a few things, like cricket (he played for Baxenden seconds and thirds), golf and tennis,” said Parkes, who has gone from the classroom to the staff room at All Saints, fighting hard to avoid calling former teachers-turned-colleagues ‘sir’ and ‘miss’.
“There are still some teachers here that used to teach me, but it was really good to come back to my old school after I qualified three years ago.”
It seemed a natural career path for Parkes, following in the footsteps of both of his parents.
He was once scouted by Bolton Wanderers after leaving Huncoat United for Padiham, but professional football never beckoned.
He is happy at the Arbories, however, where he is watched by dad Dave, who has followed him at all levels of football, and girlfriend Hannah’s brother, Dominic.
And while Parkes is pleased with his personal milestone, he hopes there is more reason to celebrate as a team this season.
The return of Wilkes for a second spell in charge in the summer could, he feels, prove to be the catalyst for a promotion push from NWCL Premier Division.
“The hope is that we can win the league,” he said.
“It’s tough because you have to win it to get promoted. There’s nothing for second place.
“But this is the best squad I’ve seen since I’ve been at Padiham, so there’s a chance.
“No-one’s running away with the league like they have for the last three or four years.
“It’s really close at the top, so it’s about who is the most consistent.”
Padiham went joint top last Saturday thanks to a 2-1 win at Winsford, the only team to beat them this season. Revenge was exacted.
If the Storks can sustain their lofty position, it would go down as the best season Parkes has experienced since the 2008/09 campaign, when they achieved promotion to the Premier Division as runners up and reached one cup final and another semi-final.
“We would top that this season if we could win the league,” he said.