IT may not be quite right to liken Keigan Parker’s return to the Fylde coast to that of the prodigal son, but his debut for Fleetwood was unexpected, eventful and memorable.
He could be forgiven for arriving at Highbury with a kitbag emblazoned with the words Mansfield Town, for that was the Blue Square Bet Premier team he expected to represent on Saturday until Fleetwood came in with a late loan move and pitched him in for a debut against Grimsby.
Brought on as a substitute just after an hour, Pool impressed, not least with the final goal in Fleetwood’s vital 3-0 victory over Grimsby.
It was a case of back to the future as his strike was a mirror-image of the famous curler that rounded off Blackpool’s momentous win in the Division One play-off final against Yeovil in 2007, the triumph that paved the way for Pool’s ultimate elevation to the Premier League.
However, Parker’s career took a marked detour in the opposite direction, to the likes of Huddersfield, Oldham, Hartlepool, Bury and then Mansfield.
The 28-year-old downplayed his goal, though others – not least manager Micky Mellon – were drooling about it.
Parker said: “It is always good to get a goal on your debut. It doesn’t matter if it comes off your backside, but I am just glad to be off to a flyer.
“When you get into that situation, I would be lying if I said the goal against Yeovil didn’t cross my mind.
“I am just thankful it went in. That’s more important than anything.”
Mellon said: “We want to make the squad stronger when the opportunity arises and that’s why we have brought Keigan Parker in. He has added to the squad already.”
As for the goal, Mellon remarked: “That is the quality of the man – he gives you that wee bit extra.
“It was exactly like the one at Wembley and maybe he will get another ten of them!
“When games are tight, Keigan has that wee bit of pace and magic, and can cause teams major damage.
“He wanted to get back to this area and Mansfield have been brilliant.
“He still has property here and he needed to get back for one reason or another. Mansfield did the right thing by the player and didn’t hold on to him. It is difficult when you have personal issues that mean you have to be over here.
“We were alerted to his availability and made it happen very quickly. He is a valuable addition to an already very good squad.”
Parker, who said that Fleetwood had shown an interest in early January, explained Friday’s events: “I was in a hotel in Lancaster with the Mansfield squad, preparing for the game against Barrow, when I got a call at 5pm and was told the move was on. I jumped at the chance to come here. Obviously it is a club going forward.
“I spoke to the chairman and the manager, who are bright people looking to take the club on. That is the reason I have come here and hopefully I can help them do that.
“I have played against Fleetwood twice this season and was really impressed. They are the best footballing team in the league.
“The way they play will suit my style. I am here to work hard and hopefully to get the team promoted.”
As for Blackpool, who he joined from St Johnstone in 2004, Parker said: “Their results are the first I look out for. I had the best time in my football career there.
“Some people might think I am bitter about them being in the Premier League, but these things hapen and hopefully they can stay up this season.”
Reflecting on the victory over Grimsby, which won back the play-off place Town had lost to Kidderminster on Friday night, Mellon remarked: “We said before the match that there would be nothing between the sides and that it would be tight, and as with the York game last Tuesday we thought the first goal would be all-important.
“That proved the case at York and it was the same against Grimsby. I told the boys to make sure we scored first to make it very difficult for them. I thought we were in control of the first half. We looked well organised and competitive all over the pitch.
“We got the first goal at the right time and took a grip on the game.”
Gareth Seddon capped a superb display with Fleetwood’s second goal, earning fulsome praise from his manager.
“He has been brilliant all season and we missed him against York.
“He is a big, big player for us when he is playing like that. He will fight for the team and that’s a great quality for a frontman to have.
“He deserved his goal and is having a terrific season. We want to continue that and push on.
“It was a must-win game for us and there will be more of those, but the players have shown that they have the quality to handle that.”