Parky is a true Seasider now!

BY rights one man who should have split loyalties on Saturday is Gary Parkinson.

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Not a chance of it. Despite four successful and enjoyable seasons at North End – not to mention a derby day goal against the Seasiders – Parkinson is firmly in Blackpool's camp now and rooting for Simon Grayson's side.

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Mind you, it's in his own interest for the Tangerines to do well because that is where Parkinson is earning his crust.

After retiring from football in 2001, the defender – who had an excellent career at clubs like Middlesbrough, Bolton and Burnley – did his coaching badges.

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It's paid off. After a spot of media work, he's now back in football full-time as Blackpool's head of youth.

That means travelling to Squires Gate every day to oversee the up-and-coming youngsters.

But he'll find time in his busy schedule to make it to Deepdale, and he's expecting a match like no other Blackpool have played this season.

"Derby games are unique, they're like nothing else during the year," said Parkinson.

"They are so demanding for the players because everyone is well aware of what is at stake.

"There is only 15 miles between the two clubs so there are a lot of bragging rights involved.

"Supporters from both clubs work in the same offices. The players know that and they know they have to go out and get a result for them.

"For the fans this is the game they look for straight away when the fixtures are announced and the game they most want to win."

Parkinson didn't play for the Seasiders against Preston, but he lined up in North End colours against their bitter Lancashire rivals on several occasions.

He even scored against Blackpool, in the April 1998 derby. That was one of the best in recent times, a memorable 3-3 draw with Phil Clarkson ghosting in for a brace and John Hills scoring the other Seasiders' goal.

So what's it like to actually play in one of these games?

"Intense," says Parkinson, without hesitation. "Unbelievably intense.

"There is no better game for a player than a derby game. It doesn't matter what area you come form.

"I played in Middlesbrough-Newcastle, Middlesborugh-Sunderland games, doesn't matter who it is, the rivalry is the same.

"From a player's point of view you just concentrate on making sure that you do the right things, especially early on.

"You want to make a good early tackle, just to blow the nerves away. It is expected in derby games to compete.

"It will be an intense atmosphere. The fans will be up for it as well the players.

"There will be a lot of passion at Deepdale on Saturday and it's the team that can keep their nerve on the day, rise to the occasion and be the best in possession of the ball that will win.

"Also there tends not to be many chances in derby games so you have to try and take what chances you can."

There's no doubting who Parkinson wants to prevail.

"I've no split loyalties at all –- I'm right behind Blackpool," he added.


"I want them to win, it's as simple as that. I work for Blackpool and we are on the up.

"Simon Grayson has done great and he is pushing the club forward.

"But we need to win these games and we want to win these games, and if we do win the fans can live off it for the next six months, so all the staff are desperate to win it for them."

This derby has more importance than most.

With just two points separating the sides at the bottom end of the table, the victors will not just get one over on their fiercest rivals but will also receive a massive shot in the arm in their attempts to stay in the division.

"But it doesn't really matter where either team is in the league, because form tends to go out of the window anyway in derbies," argues Parkinson.

"It's probably the only game of the season where it's like a Cup final. You have to treat it like that and you've got to win – it's as simple as that. You can't come out of the game with any excuses.

"I've seen first hand what Blackpool are doing and they are playing well. We just need to convert our chances.

"I've listened to a few interviews Alan Irvine has done and Preston are doing OK too. They just need a little rub of the green, which they got against Hull on Tuesday.

"It's going to be a terrific contest and it's not just the fans looking forward to it, everyone at the club can't wait for kick off either."

Early slot for the Parkinson show

WHEN you wake at a leisurely hour at the weekend, spare a thought for Gary Parkinson.

He'll be setting cones up in the midst of a gale and training the Blackpool stars of the future.

Parkinson is 18 months into his role as Seasiders head of youth football, and despite the long hours he wouldn't change it for the world.

"It's what I wanted to do. I've done all my badges so I can do something like this," he said.

"All right on Saturday mornings sometimes conditions down at Squires Gate are tough.

"But you have to cope with it and adapt to it as a footballer.

"You've got to be able to get on with it because if you use the weather or the facilities as an excuse then you are never going to become the player that you want to be.

"I am enjoying what I do, absolutely loving it, and I am grateful to Simon (Grayson) for giving me the opportunity to do it.

"I am working with a great bunch of young lads and we are trying to get the players of the future into Blackpool's first team.

"I am trying to pass on what I've learned in my playing career from other people.

"Things are going well and we've got one or two kids that are showing real promise.

"There are some training with the first team, all they need now is the opportunity to get in the first team."

Parkinson made 580 league and cup appearances during a 17-year playing career.

Blackpool was his last league club, though after leaving Bloomfield Road in summer 2002 he continued to play, at Stalybridge Celtic.

"Eventually though, like many players find, you've got to find other ways of living," added Parkinson.

"I did my coaching badges first, did quite a lot of work with a sport and leisure company, did some media stuff, coaching centre of excellence academies...just waiting for an opportunity where I could get back in full time.

"Luckily that has arisen at Blackpool so it's down to me to get my head down, put the hours in, work as hard as I possibly can and at the end of it achieve something – ie. get players into Blackpool's first team.

"Hopefully we'll do that."

Parkinson has his work cut out. In the last 10 years Danny Coid is the only player who has come through the ranks and gone on really to achieve something.

Parkinson is determined to improve the success rate.