Football legend Gary Parkinson got a huge reception after making a return to the gamefor the first time since he suffered a devastating stroke more than three years ago.
Former Blackpool player Gary, affectionately known as ‘Parky’, was at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium for the Boxing Day clash with Championship rivals Burnley yesterday – and had a successful family day out as he watched Boro triumph 1-0.
He received a standing ovation from both sets of fans in the crowd of just under 21,000 when he was welcomed on to the pitch before the game.
It was the first time he has been to a match since he suffered a stroke in September 2010, which resulted in him developing locked-in syndrome.And the game was particularly special to the former defender as he has previously played for both Boro and Burnley.
The 45-year-old attended the Boxing Day game with wife Deborah, son Luke. Luke’s girlfriend Beth and daughters Chloe and Sophie.
Luke said: “This has been so nice for dad and is something he has been wanting to do for a while. But he was quite anxious beforehand.
“I asked him in the car on the way to the stadium how he was feeling and he said he was looking forward to it but was a bit nervous.
“Within five minutes of us getting there, there was people coming over to see him.
“People were very happy to see him.”
As well as Luke, Gary’s wife Deborah, the couple’s two daughters Sophie and Chloe.
Luke added: “It meant a lot to him as he has played for both of these teams.
“I asked him before the match who he wanted to win and he said he was sitting on the fence.
“It has been a really nice Christmas for us.
“Last Christmas he had only just been released from hospital a couple of days before, but this year he has been able to spend all of it at home with us all.
“He has been out and about a bit, so it has been busy.
“And this is just the cherry on the top of the cake.”
Parky, who grew up in Thornaby, played for Boro, Bolton, Burnley and Preston before joining Blackpool in March 2001. He made 24 league appearances for the Seasiders winning promotion to the Second Division through the play-offs in the 2000–01 season
In 2006 he was appointed Head of Youth at the club.