In an exclusive interview with his journalism student son Luke, ex-Burnley Gary Parkinson looks back on his career and what the current crop of Clarets need to do to return to the top flight...

WHEN Burnley face Middlesbrough on Tuesday there will not be much love lost between the two sets of fans as they go head-to-head in a match that could prove crucial for both sides promotion chances.

But one thing they do have in common is former player, Gary Parkinson.

The Middlesbrough-born, Parkinson made more than 500 club appearances spanning two decades in the professional game including a trip to Wembley.

But it could have all been different for the right-back who quit Everton as a schoolboy with homesickness, “I was on the books as a kid with Everton in the days of Andy Gray and I was actually his boot boy at the time,” said Parkinson.

“I just didn’t settle there as a teenager and was delighted when Middlesbrough offered me a chance to return home to the club I supported as a boy.”

He went on to be a vital part of Middlesbrough’s back four during a time when the club faced liquidation.

The side relied on local lads to bring the club back from the brink and ensure it recovered.

Liquidation was followed by back-to-back promotions from the old Division Three to Division One.

During that time Parkinson played alongside the current Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray who is now in his third season in charge at the Riverside.

Mowbray was captain of that side back in 1986 and Parkinson said Mowbray always had the capabilities to become a manager.

“Tony was probably the best captain I played under,” he said.

“He always had good leadership skills on and off the pitch and it is no surprise to me that he has had success as a manager.

Middlesbrough is a perfect match all round for him.

“They have a fantastic chairman who is always willing to put money into the club and the youth system, a lot like Burnley, and he will always give the manager time to develop a squad which is very rare in modern day football.”

When Bruce Rioch left Ayresome Park to move to Bolton, Parkinson’s time at the club came to an end.

After short stints with Southend and with Rioch at Bolton, Parkinson found a second home at Burnley where he enjoyed one of his greatest days as a footballer.

Clarets fans will remember it like it was yesterday.

After a 3-1 aggregate win against Plymouth Argyle in the semi-finals of the Division Two play-offs, Burnley went to Wembley to take on Stockport.

After an early County goal was followed by a red card the Clarets soon got on top when winger, David Eyres went on a mazy run before converting into the bottom corner.

Then came the winner.

Parkinson, who was well out of position, found the ball at his feet on the edge of the 18 yard box. He tried his luck and sent the ball in to the bottom corner. Parkinson celebrated the other side of the safety barrier with the Burnley fans creating an image that will live long in the memory.

“I had no idea what I was doing in the celebration,” he said.

“The emotion just took over and carried me towards the Burnley fans. It wasn’t until a few days later that it actually sunk in and I realised what we had achieved.”

A winning trip to Wembley is something the club has only seen once since that time in 1994.

But Parkinson believes the current Burnley side are almost there in terms of putting a squad together that is good enough to return to the Premier League.

Parkinson added: “The one thing Burnley are missing at the moment is a David Eyres type player.

“He could create something from nothing and had a great eye for goal.

“He proved on that incredible day at Wembley. He is a great friend and it was great to achieve success together at Burnley and Preston.

“Charlie Austin needs to stay fit and scoring goals if the Clarets want to push for the top six this season.

“If they don’t get there, I fear the likes of Austin and Kieran Trippier could be taken away by Premier League clubs.”

Middlesbrough are a club that Parkinson believes are also destined for a play-off place. Mowbray’s men will be looking to end a run which has seen them win just one of their last six games.

The side from the north east have had the better of this tie in recent years but Parkinson believes it will be a tough game to call.

“It will be a very tight game at Turf Moor,” he added.

“Neither side will want to slip up and lose their place in the chasing pack for promotion.

“These games were always good to play in as both teams have passionate fans and Burnley may just have the edge with that at Turf Moor.

“I wish both clubs the best of luck for the rest of the season and thank them and their fans for all their support.

“It makes me proud and emotional when I hear you sing my name and to have legendary status among both sets of fans is a real honour.

“You have given me some great memories during my playing days and I look forward to going back to Turf Moor and the Riverside, in the future, to thank you all in person.”

Chance to ride for Parkinson

THE son of former Claret, Gary Parkinson, has organised a coast-to-coast bike ride to help his dad recover from locked-in syndrome.

Luke Parkinson, 19, is asking for fans of his dad’s former clubs to join him on the Tour4Parky, which will raise money to help his dad increase his physio now he has returned home.

The former Burnley right-back has been left with locked-in syndrome after suffering a stroke in 2010 and now requires ongoing care at his home and communicates through blinking.

The syndrome leaves the sufferer in almost paralysis apart from eye movements and means that Gary requires a wheelchair.

Luke, who lives in Bolton said: “It is great to finally have my dad back home and part of the family environment once again. We want to get moving again with his physio and speech therapy so the ride will help raise vital funds.

“We already have more than 20 cyclists registered for the full four day ride and most of us have started training as the ride is about 40 miles a day. My dad just laughs at me when he sees me in my cycling gear.”

The Tour4Parky ride, which is being sponsored by the Lancashire Telegraph, begins at Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road and will pass all of Gary’s former clubs over a four-day period, finishing at Middlesbrough.

Day one of the ride will start in Blackpool and pass Preston North End’s Deepdale before ending at the Reebok Stadium in Bolton. Days two and three will see the cyclists pass Turf Moor before making the uphill ascent across the Yorkshire Dales. The final day will stretch across Teesside before finishing at the Riverside Stadium.

Registration to the ride is priced at £10 per person which includes a Tour4Parky jersey, and all cyclists are asked to raise a minimum donation of £25.

To donate or to register, please visit the Tour4Parky page on