Slade Road School |
GEC works team |
Boldmere St. Michael’s |
1945-55 Aston Villa, Free, 344 (4) |
AT A GLANCE
Henry Arthur Parkes
Sunday, 4 January 1920
Boldmere St. Michael's
Alex Massie |
George Martin |
Eric Houghton |
First Squad Appearance
Wednesday, 5 September 1945
Wednesday, 5 September 1945
Monday, 28 January 1946
Saturday, 9 October 1954
Final Squad Appearance
Saturday, 9 October 1954
(5ft 9.5 in) 1.75 m
Player #395 for Aston Villa, Henry Arthur Parkes, known as Harry Parkes, played as a full back for the club between 1945-46 and 1954-55 making 344 appearances and scoring 4 goals.
Erdington born Harry didn’t have to stray too far from home to realise his football dreams - turning out for Slade Road School, Erdington before joining GEC, Witton in the Birmingham Works League ahead of his move to Boldmere St. Michael’s.
Harry even began his working life as an apprentice toolmaker with GEC, the electronics and engineering factory in Witton, Birmingham, not far from Villa Park.
Born less than 3 miles from Villa Park on 4 January 1920 Harry made his professional debut for Villa in the 1945-46 FA Cup aged 26.
having signed as an amateur from Boldmere St. Michael’s in April 1939 before clinching professional forms aged 19 in August 1939.
The breakout of World War Two and resultant suspension of league and cup football meant Harry’s professional career suffered an almost immediate hiatus. Harry did however continue to represent Villa in wartime football playing 109 ‘friendly’ games between 1940 and 1945 during which he demonstrated a scoring ability that underlined his status as a player a cut above the quality of his contemporaries.
Harry hit 44 goals across the period and guested for West Bromwich Albion and Northampton Town, as well as helped Villa to beat Blackpool in the final of the Football League North Cup in 1944.
In the immediate post War period a regional league was introduced for 1945-46 and two-headed FA Cup ties, this interim arrangement threw up opposition from across the leagues and Harry went on to make 38 appearances, scoring four times in this largely experimental season.
Harry appeared in all 8 matches of the 1945-46 FA Cup and those fixtures represented his first professional appearances for Villa. Harry’s senior debut came as a right-half in the 1946 FA Cup tie at Coventry City.
Such were his performances and versatility in War time games that Harry was an automatic choice for the first eleven when football restarted in earnest in 1945-46 but despite having figured at inside forward was a ready made right half for the team.
The reinstatement of league football proper from 1946-47 saw Harry’s stock really rise and he would miss just 12 League games across the subsequent seven seasons from 1947–1954.
Harry was one of the most versatile players to ever grace Villa Park and shone in any position he was asked to fill and played in several positions for the club including centre-forward, right-half, goalkeeper and winger. Indeed Harry occupied every outfield position except outside-left, before settling at right-back during the 1948-49 season, although he still willingly swapped roles as the team’s needs dictated.
His versatility, and virtual ever presence simply added to his value to the romance of a product of local football making it big with Villa - playing for Boldmere St. Michael’s before joining the Villa - his was a rise with extra resonance for the Villa faithful.
But for an injury early in his senior career that interrupted his progress, Harry was a virtual ever present once that early injury had been beaten.
Once recovered, Harry never lost his place again and such was his versatility that he played in every position on the pitch for Villa - including goalkeeper after Villa’s number one, Joe Rutherford, sustained a broken finger in the match with Wolves, and Harry came in between the sticks to take the green jersey. Perhaps not a goalkeeper of the calibre of centre half Con Martin, but admirable nonetheless.
Harry could and should have won international recognition but an injury to his elbow suffered in the second leg of the sixth round FA Cup tie with Derby County in 1946 prevented his call up and ruled him out of the remainder of the immediate post War campaign.
Such extreme versatility possibly cost Harry his international chance, with the England selection committee which held sway at that time invariably opting for specialists.
Off the pitch Harry established the Houghton & Parkes sports outfitters with former team-mate Eric Houghton whilst still playing for Villa and initially located his premises at 138 Gravelly Hill North, Birmingham 23, where like his team-mate Les Smith he used his business acumen to prepare himself for life after football even whilst still at a relatively young age, using his celebrity to drive a local customer base to his business.
Back on the football field, over time Harry would settle down as a regular occupant of the right back berth and as in all things he did, he did it with excellence, remaining exceptionally speedy, sure and deadly in the tackle and a good kicker of the ball.
Harry with his fast and astute game, always playing to the advantage of his side and placing the ball with welcome discretion meant his failure to receive international recognition was the source of great perplexity.
His speed often surprised the winger to whom he was opposed and his tackling was as safe as anyone’s however he was not averse, when in possession, to carry the ball forward and have a go at goal. As his career progressed Harry was made a designated penalty taker by Villa who had an embarrassment of riches in that area with Dicky Dorsett, Stan Lynn and more besides to choose from.
Harry experienced much during his long career in the first team reaching a high of sixth place in 1947-48, 1951-52 and 1954-55, and the lows finishing being 15th in 1950-51, when relegation was averted by only five points.
But through it all, Harry was a vocal presence on and off the pitch, Harry was the dressing room comedian that kept his team-mates continually entertained and who could be relied upon to lift morale no matter how dire the circumstances. His propensity for clowning also fostered a lively rapport with the fans, with whom he was in the habit of exchanging quips before, after or even during a match.
Away from the mirth however Harry was an almost metronomic presence in the team, and even in an era renowned for the quality of wing play, Harry proved more than equal to the threat posed by the talents of opponents such as Stanley Matthews of Blackpool, Tom Finney of Preston North End and Liverpool’s Billy Liddell.
Quick, strong, physical and an eye for marauding forward, Harry gave the opposition plenty to think about and although the 1940s saw his peak, the 1950s saw Harry become instrumental in the development of a fluid football style that Villa developed with the talents of Harry, midfielder Danny Blanchflower and inside-forward Tommy Thompson in claret and blue.
Unsurprisingly Harry served as Villa captain on a number of occasions and despite playing his final game for Villa aged 35 on Saturday, 9 October 1954 continued to contribute to his beloved club in a number of ways whilst concentrating on his sports shop - now relocated to Corporation Street, Birmingham - from which he even supplied all the boots to the Villa team.
Harry had played under Villa managers Alex Massie, George Martin and Eric Houghton.
In 1968, at a time of typical Doug Ellis turbulence in the Villa boardroom he became a club director.
Predictably Harry’s opinions and values being very different from those of Ellis, saw Harry leave the role in the early 1970s.
Harry continued to serve a new generation of customers at his famous sports shop however it would sadly close when Harry retired in the mid-1990s and a Birmingham landmark was gone never to be forgotten.
Harry passed away in Solihull on 4 March 2009 aged 89.