David Parkin gets cornered by a football hard man and finds that construction is more about thongs than trusses

I SHOULD have known it was a bad idea from the start.

Going head-to-head with one of football’s hardest men, even decades after he retired, was going to leave me exposed.

But ever since I came up with the idea of “celebrating” the anniversary of one of football’s most infamous on-the-pitch clashes, it was inevitable I was going to come face-to-face with Norman “Bite Yer Legs” Hunter, a Leeds United legend and arguably one of football’s hardest men up there alongside Ron “Chopper” Harris of Chelsea and Liverpool’s Tommy Smith.

And if you were compiling a top 10 of football hard men, at least another three of Hunter’s Leeds team mates would be in it – Billy Bremner, Johnny Giles and Joe Jordan.

Did you know that we are little more than a few weeks away from the 40th anniversary of Norman Hunter’s famous fight with Francis Lee?

If you watch the Match of the Day footage on YouTube, complete with a clearly shocked John Motson’s commentary, what happened that day at the Baseball Ground still weirdly captivates.

Probably because that kind of violence is just not seen on a football field these days.

And the pair had a clear dislike for each other – as the fighting continued on the pitch after they were both sent off and when they were walking down the tunnel.

Dave Mackay, another football tough guy, was by then retired and the manager of Derby, and sent the injured Roy MacFarland down the tunnel to try to separate his club team mate Franny and his fellow England centre half Norman.

So why am I worried about the anniversary of that famous fight in 1975?

Well COPA is holding a lunch to mark the occasion at the Foundry restaurant in Leeds on October 1st with Norman Hunter as the guest and with me, a Derby fan, putting the questions to him.

It would have been great to bring his old foe face to face with Norman on the day, but Franny, who became a very successful entrepreneur from toilet roll manufacturing after his football career ended, is now a semi-retired grandfather who says he doesn’t want to be remember fored bad behaviour on the pitch.

A footballer with a conscience? There’s a novelty, as Eric Morecambe used to say.

So it falls to me to take up the role of the stocky, balding Lee, to put the questions to Norman at our lunch. Suffice to say if I can land a fraction of the blows that Franny did 40 years ago, I’ll be happy.

And given the audience will be made up of a majority of Leeds United fans, it will be as partisan as Elland Road on a wet winter Saturday afternoon.

So if you fancy some sporting nostalgia, plenty of laughs, great food and wine, then come and join us at the Foundry. Football fans of all persuasions are welcome. If you are a Derby County fan then you’ll be even more welcome.

Being in a minority of one is never that much fun.

There are very limited numbers of spaces left, so if you would like to join us then either drop me a line at david@copasummit.com or call me on 07968 835282

First come first served (unless you support the Rams).


WHEN I mentioned the successful sale of Yorkshire business FMG by entrepreneur Andrew Cope recently I received an email from him that stated: “David, you really are prose in motion.”

I swiftly decided that Andrew was being complimentary rather than sarcastic.

I replied that my observation that his success with FMG after the series of buyouts he’d done at his previous business, Zenith, should not have read that he’d got over “second album syndrome”, more like sixth album syndrome, given the number of deals he’d driven through over the years.

“Seven to be correct,” came the swift reply.

With a bit of self confidence, he’d be dangerous.


DAVID Jones (no not that one from Reward, the normal one), a well known man about town in construction, architecture and property circles, invited me to a lunch in Sheffield last week.

I’d not come across Interact before, but it is a networking organisation for senior figures in the construction industry. It dates back to the 1970s when three guys working in Nottingham found themselves struggling to break into the industry “mafia” in the city.

Now it has branches around the country, including Leeds and Sheffield.

Sheffield Interact meets for lunch at Baldwin’s Omega, somewhere that is legendary in South Yorkshire dining and entertainment circles, but a place that I’d never been to before.

As David Jones drove up the drive of the venue, situated high up above the city on the road out towards the Peak District, I noticed a cartoon face painted on a wall with the words: “There’s a reet good view from up here.”

“That’s David’s sense of humour,” explained my host of veteran venue owner David Baldwin, a man whose presence looms large, even though he wasn’t in residence that day.

Interact is based on a simple premise: members take a guest, often a figure from the construction or property industry, go along, have a nice lunch, introduce their guest after lunch and then attendees mingle and talk business.

It was nice to walk in and see a few familiar faces. Suzanne Bell of South Yorkshire communications company Ledgard Jepson was a big supporter when I was at TheBusinessDesk and it was nice to bump into David Cadenhead of Monaghans again.

It was a who’s who of the property and construction sector in South Yorkshire.

David Jones, who I knew during his time at M J Gleeson and as a key figure in the Forum for the Built Environment (FBE), is now doing business development for Barnsley-based construction consultancy Hickton, which succinctly describes itself as “a local, nationwide, clerk of works company”.

They are even working in the Houses of Parliament.

When David introduced me, he kindly mentioned this blog and said that if anyone wanted to receive it, then they should give me a business card.

Suffice to say I wasn’t knocked down in the rush.

The talk on our table was not your usual business lunch chat. Apparently one property business owner also has a farm in the Peak District and had had his leg broken earlier this year after being kicked by a cow.

“That sounds dangerous,” I observed.

“Not really,” said his colleague, “he was putting a ring in a bull’s nose yesterday.”

There is no answer to that really.

Before the guests were introduced by their hosts, Interact members were told that new lapel badges and ties were now available.

“I’ve got a thong,” said industry veteran Barry Wheat, with a grin and a wink at the ladies on his table.

There’s no answer to that either.

Have a great weekend.

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