On April 13th 1994 Lee Bowyer signed his first professional contract under the watchful eye of Club Secretary Chris Parkes.
On January 22nd 2020 Lee Bowyer walked into the boardroom at The Valley to sign a three-year deal as the club’s permanent manager.
“Where’s Parksey?” he politely asked.
The 68-year-old, who celebrated 30 years at the club in 2018, wasn’t far off and was soon in the boardroom to oversee Bowyer signing on the dotted line.
It was a small thing but having “Parksey”, as he is lovingly known by the club's staff past and present, in the room meant a lot to both of them.
Parkes explained: “I was chuffed. He didn’t have to do it. I didn’t have to sign his contract off as the chairman had done it. When I got the call saying he wants me to be there, it meant a lot to me. It shows what kind of man he is. He thinks a lot and respects his staff and people around him. I’ve got so much respect for the man.”
For Bowyer the respect is mutual: “Chris was here when I was a 17-year-old boy signing my first pro contract, so I thought it would be a nice touch that 26 years later that he’s there to do my contract when I’m signing as a manager. It’s a crazy thought but I thought it would be a nice gesture and a nice thing for myself and Chris.
“To give the time that he does and to be here as long as he has, I think he deserves all the respect that he gets. He’s just a really nice man and he cares, he cares so much about the club. He travels up and down the country every game. He’s part of the wallpaper, he’s been around forever. It’s still the same building and the same office, it’s great to see him around.”
Parkes clearly made an impression on a young Bowyer. The club secretary recalled his conversation with him when the former academy graduate returned to the club to help with coaching at the start of 2017: “I remember he came in and said to me ‘I remember you, you signed me as a schoolboy!’. We have a rapport and that’s all there is really.
“We became buddies almost, he’s someone I’ve known a long, long time. I speak to his dad who used to do a lot of scouting for us back when Lee was playing. He was someone that I followed. When he left I followed his career. When he came back it was a surprise, we never ever expected him to come back and become our manager."