Club historian David Bull and ALL the SAINTS researcher Mark Fickling remember Pat Parker, the former Saints centre-half (1951-59), who has died aged 84.
PATRICK JOHN PARKER
15 July 1929 – 28 January 2014
Pat Parker considered himself “very lucky to come out of village football” at 20, to play with seasoned pros, first at Plymouth and then at Newton Abbot, where he felt that the ex-pros from Argyle and Torquay made him look better than he was. That assessment was not shared by his manager, who tipped off his friend, Sid Cann, the Southampton boss, who soon signed Pat after watching him in a friendly v Southampton’s Reserves.
Digs were found for him in the groundsman’s cottage at the County Ground, where his fellow-lodgers included Mike Barnard, the young cricketer who had just signed for Portsmouth. Pat liked to join him for an evening net. He made his debut almost immediately, but his progress was impeded when he twice broke his right leg in friendlies, one of them back at Newton Abbot.
Meanwhile, Cann was being replaced by George Roughton and the Saints were dropping into Division III(S). It needed Ted Bates to take over in October 1955 for Pat to become a regular. He was ever-present in 1956-57, in a side that achieved the best defensive record in the division – which explains his selection to represent it against the Third (North).
Having then shared the No.5 shirt with John Page for two seasons, he was among the 14 players purged in May 1959. After a season at Poole, he joined Cowes, where he remained, in various part-time capacities, into his fifties. Living in Southampton and working as a production controller at Racal’s Hythe factory, he would take the Isle of Wight ferry only for home games and Island derbies. Yet he retained fonder memories, overall, of those years than of his eight seasons of League football. Pat was active, too, with the Ex-Saints. His son, Chris, especially remembers the games v Ex-Pompey, not least a clash on neutral territory at Westwood Park, Cowes.
Despite problems with his knees, Pat took up a new sport at 80. He had been lunching and watching for a while at Atherley Bowling Club, when he decided to bring out his late mother’s woods – the ones with which she had played on Plymouth Hoe. Sir Francis Drake, eat your heart out.
In 2012, by now suffering from dementia, Pat was fortunate to have Saints fan Clive Dalley as his carer. Doubling as a photographer, Clive would take Pat on trips – to visit St Mary’s (as pictured below) and to greet Terry Paine at Waterstone’s, where he was signing copies of Suited and Booted, the pre-war photographic history of the club.
Terry, who made his debut during Pat’s outstanding 1956-57 season, ‘really looked up to’ to Pat, ‘a real good athlete, two good feet and excellent in the air.’
Pat’s funeral is at St Boniface Church in Shirley at 12 noon on Tuesday, 11 February.