Jon ‘The Beast’ Parkin reveals his gut-busting pre-match meal
At his footballing peak, Jon ‘The Beast’ Parkin would regularly wolf down fishcakes, a burger and a gut-busting full English breakfast before taking to the field.
Post-match, his ‘meal’ of choice, was almost always lager. A lot of lager.
But there are no regrets. Not even the sound of Harry Kane lauding the influence of a personal nutritionist is enough to provoke doubts about his lifestyle choices.
After all, the journeyman striker, 36, boasts an impressive record, with 220 goals in 643 games at every level from the Championship to National League North.
Most importantly, though, he says he has “had a bloody good time”.
Parkin, a cult hero at several of his 14 clubs, describes that “good time”, often in gory detail, in his riotous memoirs, Feed The Beast.
Ahead of its release this week, the straight-talking Yorkshireman spoke to Mirror Football, offering typically honest views on young footballers and Jose Mourinho’s meltdown.
Parkin, in his second spell at National League North side York City, does not blame the likes of Kane for hiring chefs to give them the edge – even if their approach contrasts with his own.
He said: “I think they’ve got to do it. There are such fine margins – little percentages – that the difference between being a very good player and an incredible player can be minute.”
The 6ft 4in striker, who suspects he tipped the scales at about 17st at his heaviest, admits he is one of the last of a dying breed, unwilling to sacrifice certain things just for football.
“I honestly believe that if I was 20 now, I would never have had a career in football,” he said.
“To be fair, when I was at Preston my pre-match, if we were at home, was to get to the hotel after training on a Friday, put a couple of bets on, have fishcakes and the Marriott burger.
“Then I’d get up on the Saturday morning and have a full English before the game.
“Football has never been the most important thing in my life. It’s always been a job to me. It’s a job you’re privileged to do, and lucky to do in a way, but it has always been a job.
“You’ve got to enjoy yourself, haven’t you? Football is a slog at times. You’re in from the end of June to the end of May and you’re dictated to for 10 months of the year
“There are things you miss – weddings, birthday parties, kids’ parents’ evenings.
“Look at Fabian Delph. He had to fly back from the World Cup because his missus had a baby. Then he had to go back to Russia.
“People will say, ‘Well, they get paid enough’, but he’s still sacrificing something he’s never going to be get back – time with his newborn baby.”
Born and bred in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, Parkin began his career at his hometown club, later turning out for 13 more sides, including Hull, Stoke, Preston and Cardiff.
Unsurprisingly, he has had a lot of managers. And he is not impressed with Mourinho’s recent moaning.
He said: “He’s doing my head in. I used to really like him, but because he’s not the Special One any more, he can’t handle it. I think others have overtaken him and he can’t cope.”
“He’s always digging out his players in public and I think that’s wrong. After a game you know if you’ve played well. There’s no need for it, but it deflects from him.
“Arsene Wenger was too far the other way. He’d back his players even when they were at fault. I’d rather that because you’re all in it together.”
In 2008, Parkin achieved the unthinkable – promotion to the Premier League with Stoke – but was moved on before he could make a top flight appearance.
He is not, however, one to dwell on what might have been.
“I’ve never been blessed with pace, so I’m not sure I’d have been quick enough for the Premier League,” he said.
“My touch might have been good enough, but would I have enjoyed it? I don’t know, with all the scrutiny. Sometimes, I just want to go away with the lads and do whatever I want.
“Yes, I probably could’ve done better. I probably could’ve played higher for longer, but I’ve had a bloody good time – that’s the thing.”
Parkin, who will turn 37 in December, now has teammates who were born after he made his debut in 1999.
And he says there are some notable differences between playing in the Championship or League One and in non-league – especially when it comes to young players.
He said: “I’m tearing my hair out with them now. They’re 19/20 and they think they’ve made it when they’ve played a handful of games in League Two or below.
“Going in nightclubs, getting a table and ordering bottles of Grey Goose, they’re walking around acting like they’ve made it when they’ve not done anything in the game.
“You try to help them on the pitch and they have a go back at you, and you just think, ‘Well, if you’re not going to listen, there’s no point wasting my breath’.”
Parkin, who ranks former Cardiff teammates Craig Bellamy and Peter Whittingham as the best he played with, says he would like to reach 250 goals before he hangs up his boots.
And despite not always seeing eye to eye with the new generation, he admits he would like to try his hand at management when he does eventually call time on his playing career.
He said: “I’d like a crack at it. I think I’d be good to play for and I like to think I’d be fair and honest. If someone wasn’t playing, I’d tell them why.”
But, for now, he is not quite ready to give up the buzz of playing – and being verbally abused.
He added: “I used to get pelters from 25,000 fans every other week. And I loved it. Now, because there aren’t as many fans, I can hear every single comment.
“It’s always the same jibes about my size. People realise I’ve had an underactive thyroid for 20 years….no, I’ve just had an overactive knife and fork.”
- Jon Parkin Feed The Beast, Sport Media, RRP £18.99, is on sale September 13.
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