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Hendon Green & Gold 18 - James Parker

Greensnet Editor
Tue 08 Jul 2014, 07:00

The penultimate subject this summer is a player who left the club in 2012, after almost seven years at Hendon, James Parker.

James Parker's arrival at Hendon barely merited a mention. He was a few weeks short of his 19th birthday, and joined the club from Bishop's Stortford. As a 17-year-old, he had been a Stortford substitute in their 6-0 FA Cup first round proper defeat away to Football League club Mansfield Town in November 2003.

His Hendon debut was also unsuccessful. James found himself at left-back against a Fisher Athletic team which went on to win the London Senior Cup. Hendon were 4-0 down at half-time, after which Fisher got bored and the Greens scored a couple of second-half goals. It was an important night in club history because, after this debacle, Gary Farrell and his coaching staff were sacked. Gary McCann, Andy Pape and Gary Anderson came in and their first game was a 2-1 win over Cheshunt, with Dave Sargent - whose late arrival at Fisher had given James his debut - scoring both goals in his Hendon swan-song.

James was an ever-present for the rest of the season, and his place in McCann's improved defence certainly helped to turn around what had seemed a certain drift to relegation under Farrell. The following season, James suffered a career-threatening injury at Bromley near the end of the campaign. Still on crutches, James did receive the Supporters Association Player of the Year Award, scant consolation for an injury which left him with a permanent weakness in his ankles.

His ability to read a game made James ideal as either a central defender or a full-back, while his solid, dependable tackling meant he frequently averted danger, even before most people saw it develop. Of course, he didn't get forward very often and didn't break his goal scoring duck until he had made more than 80 appearances - heading home a Marc Leach corner - and he finished his Hendon career with just seven. In his early years at Hendon, James was a student, training to become a teacher. His intelligence, combined with good communication skills, made him ideal captaincy material and it was not long before he took this role.

If, off the field, things were very difficult, on it there was much positivity, and in 2007-08, Hendon had the first of a number of jousts to enter the play-offs, eventually coming up just short. James played in 48 matches, his best total for the Greens, having passed the 100-game mark early in the campaign. He was part of the team that lost, controversially, to Tooting & Mitcham United in the London Senior Cup Final. The Centenary season, of course, was marked by the departure from Claremont Road, and Hendon struggled for most of the first half of 2008-09 before turning things around. Although there was disappointment in the Middlesex Senior Cup, Hendon got it right against Croydon Athletic in the London Senior Cup Final at Kingsmeadow, winning on penalties. It was James's first cup medal as a Hendon player.

Solid and dependable, James was still a regular and made his 200th appearance in January 2010, in a season which saw the Greens finish a laudable 10th in the Ryman League Premier Division. The next season saw Hendon end an 11-year wait for an FA Cup first-round appearance, and James led out the side at Melbourne Stadium against Chelmsford City. The Conference South team won 3-2, but the injury-ravaged Greens were far from disgraced. And there was another London Senior Cup Final appearance, albeit another defeat, to Wingate & Finchley at Tooting & Mitcham’s Imperial Fields. James now had two runners-up medals to go with a winners' one.

The following season, he levelled his London Senior Cup Final medal count at 2-2, though the Final was a match James was lucky to be allowed to finish at his manager's terms. Hendon were strolling to a 2-0 victory over Kingstonian at rain-lashed Imber Court, when James received his second yellow card of the match. The referee, somehow, managed to confuse James's No.2 shirt with that of Carl McCluskey - No.12, who had been on the pitch for barely a minute. Gary McCann immediately substituted James and when he asked his manager why he had been taken off, Gary whispered, "How many yellows did you want?"
James finished the season on 295 appearances, but only made five more in 2012-13. He left the club after a defeat away to East Thurrock United. Having been promoted to House Master at his school, he could no longer devote the necessary time to football and effectively retired from the senior game aged only 26.

Joined Hendon: January 2005
Left Hendon: September 2012
Appearances: 300 (293 starts, 7 substitute)
Goals: 7
Supporters Association Player of the Year: 2005-06
Medals won: London Senior Cup: 2008-09, 2011-12

(David Ballheimer)