Gary Parkinson backs winner ahead of Preston North End Retro Day

Gary Parkinson at Haydock Park with his family
Gary Parkinson at Haydock Park with his family

Gary Parkinson had the perfect preparation for Preston North End’s Retro Day by backing a winner at Haydock Park.

North End host Ipswich Town on Good Friday, and this year’s Deepdale Retro party will be in aid of the Gary Parkinson Trust.

The former North End defender suffered a stroke in 2010, and his condition – locked-in syndrome – means he can only communicate through eye movement and is wheelchair-bound. Gary’s wife Deborah said: “Gary loves horse racing, and it meant such a lot for us as a family to be together, and see Gary smiling and enjoying one of his favourite pastimes.

“Haydock Park gave us a hospitality lounge, and I can’t thank them enough for their kindness to Gary. We are all very much looking forward to Gary going back to Deepdale, where he loved playing and always receives a very warm welcome from Preston.”

Fans’ favourite Parkinson enjoyed a four-year spell with North End, clocking up 109 appearances for the Lilywhites following a switch from Burnley in 1997.

Gary’s son Luke said: “It was an incredible gesture by Haydock Park.

“He has to rely on other people, often carers he has only met a couple of times, to help him go about tasks that we all take for granted. Dad’s a private person, who feels most comfortable in his own home and around his family – with the racing on, of course.”

Locked-in syndrome is a condition that means a person is fully aware but cannot speak due to their paralysis.

“There is no cure but if people have recovered in the past, then why can’t my dad?” added Luke. “One per cent is good enough for us, we were given less than that in the past and dad’s still here.”

The high cost of Gary’s means that the family struggle to meet the price of funding hydrotherapy swimming sessions and speech therapy.

“I look at my mum and dad and although they’d never admit it, I see a couple who are concerned about how all these pieces are coming together,” said Luke.

“Not necessarily my dad’s health, but how we go about getting the extra things that are going to improve it.”

The Gary Parkinson Trust, Twitter (@garyparkytrust), or e-mail: garyparkytrust@gmail.com. Donation page, garyparky.co.uk/donate.