FOOTBALL’s most experienced caretaker manager could finally be ready to take the plunge into full-time management after more than two decades of being the perennial bridesmaid.
Tony Parkes is currently in his seventh stint as temporary boss after Simon Grayson’s managerial switch from Blackpool to Leeds but, unlike the previous six times, he is now ready to take the reins permanently.
The 59-year-old earned legendary status during a playing and coaching career at Ewood Park that spanned more than 30 years and included almost 400 appearances as a player.
After he hung up his boots, Parkes stayed in Lancashire as a coach and was appointed Rovers’ caretaker boss on no less than six occasions – without ever making a claim for the top job.
Now in line to finally take the permanent hot-seat at Championship Blackpool, helped by former Burnley players Steve Thompson and Gary Parkinson, Parkes has revealed why he was never tempted into full time management at Rovers.
He said: “I was fairly happy with just doing it on a temporary basis and waiting for the next manager. The only problem is when you do want it and they bring someone else in.
“That becomes a problem because the manager thinks ‘he wanted it he probably thinks he can do a better job’.
“If I had wanted the job permanently at Rovers I probably wouldn’t have been there for as long as I had been. That was always in the back of my mind.”
Standing in for Bobby Saxton, Don MacKay, Ray Harford, Roy Hodgson, Brian Kidd and Graeme Souness between 1986-2004, Parkes’ love affair was finally ended upon Mark Hughes arrival at Ewood.
Parkes though insists he bears no grudges but believes the task he accepted on a regular basis at Rovers was one of the hardest in football.
“I was caretaker manager six times,” said Parkes.
“The difficulty of it is you don’t normally get a caretaker’s job when you are doing well.
“You were always bottom of the league or in the bottom three when you took over. That was the enormity of it. The team was in the bottom three and there a lot of unrest with the players. Some had seen the manager get the sack and were unhappy.
“Basically it is the toughest time you will ever get a team. Fortunately, things went really well in most of my caretaker stints and when the new manager came in we were in a better position.
“I think the longest I was in charge was for 26 games. When Ray Harford left we had four points from 10 games. I took over and we managed to stay in the league. That was mine and the players’ biggest success in my time as caretaker manager.”
Parkes knows all about the uncertainty of football, having been axed by Hughes after a life-long spell at Rovers, but he prefers to focus on the good times he had in Lancashire.
Those include being part of the coaching staff in their Premier League title win, something Parkes is proud to have been part of.
He said: “It could have happened 15 years earlier when other managers had come in. I had a good run and it was time to move on.
“Every manager is allowed to pick his own staff and when Mark Hughes came in he picked his own staff and that did not contain me.
“There were no hard feelings and off I went. If it had happened 15 years earlier though I would have been in a worse state and a worse predicament at the time.
“A lot of the managers came by themselves, which happened, but when others brought someone with them they still kept me.
“I had a great time here and a long time.”
Grayson’s switch to Leeds late last week has seen Parkes step into the temporary role again, this time at Blackpool.
After two impressive draws in his first two games at the helm though, he admits he wants the role full time.
He said: “Myself and Steve Thompson want the job and from our point of view the situation is black and white,.
“If we win some games we have a chance of getting the job. If we lose some, the club will look for a manager from somewhere else.”