Tonbridge Angels’ longest serving player believes the club can still turn their season around - despite no win in their last five games.
By Steven Oldham
We’re better than the league suggests, says Parkinson
Tommy Parkinson joined Tonbridge in 2014, one month after manager Steve McKimm took the reins at The Longmead Stadium.
The Angels have dropped to 18th in the National League South in recent weeks, failing to score in four of those five games. They broke their goalless duck at the weekend in a 1-1 draw with Chelmsford City.
The 30-year-old knows his team have to be more ruthless if they are to succeed this season - and believes three wins in 13 games is not representative of how they are playing.
“We’re not a million miles away from being a top 7-8 team. As a team we need to start being more clinical in front of goal - not just the forwards.
“There’s only so many times you can say that. Until we start putting the ball in the back of the net, we won’t win any games.
“There’s only been one game this season - against Ebbsfleet United on the first day - where I’ve come off the pitch and thought they were miles better than us. We’ve been equal to, or better than the opposition in most other games.
“If we’d been more clinical we could have an extra 12 points. On any given day, any team can turn anyone over in this league. It’s very rare for teams to go on a long winning streak. There’s a lot of money in the league this year and it’s very competitive,” he said.
Loyalty shown through extended injury periods
Parkinson’s longevity at the Kent club works for both himself and the club, and he admits he’s never considered leaving during his time there.
His adaptability must also have helped - usually thought of as a midfielder, he’s stepped back into central defence this season.
Injury problems have beset him in recent years, wiping out the best part of two seasons after injuries to both ankles. Combine these injury absences and the Covid-enforced cancelled seasons, Parkinson has spent many of his prime years unable to play. The club are yet to finish a season in their second spell as an NLS club because of the pandemic.
A prolonged recovery from a broken ankle left him with a metal plate in place to hold it together. The season after, ruptured ligaments in the other ankle led to a further operation and more time on the sidelines.
“When I broke my ankle, I thought I’d be back a lot quicker - three months in I was still feeling a bit of pain. A scan showed the break hadn’t healed so I had to have an operation. They put a metal plate and screw in there to keep it together.
“In the promotion winning season, I went in for a tackle and rolled my other ankle. I knew straight away something wasn’t right. I’d ruptured every ligament I’ve got, it came away from the bone. I also tore some cartilage. That injury was a lot worse - I’d rather break it again!
“Since I’ve been back, I haven’t really had any problems with either ankle. I did my rehab right, it may have taken a little longer but it meant when I came back I was fit and ready to go.
“It’s nice to hit the ground running this year after the past two seasons. I’m now injury free,” he said.
Managerial ambitions for Parkinson...but not just yet
Already a UEFA A Licence holder, Parkinson is clearly preparing for life after hanging up his boots. He’s the academy manager at Tonbridge, and spent time as a first team coach while in rehab for his second ankle layoff.
Leadership seems to come naturally to the player, a former captain of the side. He sportingly passed on the armband to Sonny Miles while recuperating from his injuries.
Parkinson is pragmatic about the season to date and wants to use his position as a locker room leader to turn things around.
“The manager offered me the first team coach role, which I’m forever grateful to Steve for. Coaching wasn’t something that was new to me, but I was thrown in at the deep end coaching the men’s team and my team mates.
“I really enjoyed taking training and being involved on the management side. It was an eye opener. It’s something I’d love to go into once I finish playing.
“There’s nothing we can do now about the games we’ve had. We have to look forward and have a positive mindset heading into the next game.
“A few players in the dressing room are probably low on confidence. As an experienced player I know you can’t dwell on things, you just have to brush it under the carpet.
“I’d love to be Tonbridge manager one day, but I hope to have plenty more years playing to come!,” he said.