Padiham boss Steve Wilkes believes that defender Martin Parkes’s latest milestone is a measure of the club captain’s character.
The evergreen centre-back celebrated his 400th appearance for the Storks, which has spanned 12 seasons, with a 3-2 win over Irlam at the Arbories on Saturday.
Parkes made his debut back in 2005 in a 3-3 draw against New Mills at Church Lane, the venue for tomorrow’s fixture in the Hallmark Security Premier Division.
The 28-year-old helped the club climb from the Second Division in 2009 and was among the squad that achieved unprecedented success during the 2012/13 term as they jumped to the Evo-Stik First Division North as champions.
“It’s a fantastic achievement,” said Wilkes. “And it just shows that he’s Padiham Football Club through and through. People refer to Alan Smith as “Mr Padiham”, and the same is true for Martin on the playing side.
“I don’t think anybody at this level would’ve achieved that. It’s unheard of. Players move from club to club these days. Money speaks volumes.
“You don’t hear about any players reaching that kind of milestone at this level, and I don’t believe his achievement has been recognised as much as it should’ve been. It’s huge.”
Barring a brief spell at AFC Darwen in the embryonic stages of his career, Parkes has always flown with the Storks, while donning the skipper’s armband.
And Wilkes couldn’t envisage a better man to have taken on the responsibility.
“I’m eight games away from 900 games as a manager with the club, so I know what an achievement it is to get to 400 as a player at one club,” he said.
“He’s been my captain ever since he came back. He rarely misses training, he gives everything for the cause and has great leadership skills.
“He’s a PE teacher so keeps himself fit, he throws his body at everything, and would run through a brick wall for Padiham FC.”
Wilkes added: “I gave him his debut as a 16-year-old, but he’s had to bide his time recently. He hadn’t played since September due to the form of Marc Young and Brandon Barski, but he came back in and it was like he’d never been away.
“He’s been a great servant and he deserves all the accolades that he’s going to get. It would be great if we can both reach our big milestones together at Padiham.”
Players spending 12 years at the same club is a rarity nowadays, and Parkes has some great memories: “Winning promotion from the second division in 2009 with a team made up completely of local lads was a great achievement, but the title winning season of 2012/2013 was second to none.
“The team spirit, standard of players, passion, commitment and togetherness was the best in my time at the club. We had no right to win the league that year, there were better squads paying more money, but they didn’t have our spirit. Getting my hands on the trophy at Runcorn Town - despite missing the game through suspension - was the ultimate feeling, the best I’ve experienced on a football pitch.”
Anyone involved with Padiham will recognise Martin’s proud dad Dave, who’s an ever-present on the terraces, even spawning the promotion season chant of “Parkesey is a legend...his Dad said so!” Martin and wife Hannah have recently had their first child, Thea Grace who came along to support dad at Saturday’s game.
“The support I’ve received from my family throughout my time playing for Padiham has been unwavering, especially from my Dad. He loves the club and has followed Padiham home and away for the past 12 seasons. What people may not realise is that he gives up his time during the week and works with a dedicated team of volunteers to get the pitch ready, paint the stands, sweep leaves, paint the lines on the pitch plus so much more. That team of people are the unsung heroes of the club and their contribution isn’t always recognised. My wife, Hannah, is also very supportive, and although she doesn’t attend many games she has to put up with me giving her the match report after a win or sulking after a defeat! One of Padiham’s newest fans Thea Grace Parkes, our beautiful little girl, was also in attendance to see her first Padiham game!”