David Parkin on being a jerk

IF, like me you find yourself unable to sleep in the early hours of the morning following your Covid vaccination, can I recommend a sure-fire 30 minute cure for insomnia?

My appearance as a guest on the Linkedin vodcast called Sean in the Shed by entrepreneur Sean Gilligan saw me giving my thoughts on events, journalism, working from home, the future of retail and even some economic predictions.

It was a fun half hour – for me anyway.

Here is a link to it: https://www.linkedin.com/video/live/urn:li:ugcPost:6780889023167655936/

Given this was the 147th episode of #SeanInTheShed, if you don’t fancy watching my ramblings, then there are 146 other more interesting people to listen to.

One person who has watched it told me they had a particular memorable highlight.

Was it my beautiful engaging oratory perhaps? My clearly-thought out views on the economic outlook for the country?

Or even the sprinklings of humour throughout which adds a lightness of touch?

No, she said

“I did chuckle when the subtitles picked up that you always wanted to be a jerk.”



IT is my greatest sporting achievement.

Not starting a Mexican wave at a test match.

Or even scoring an unbeaten four runs in the annual Western Mail versus South Wales Echo cricket match on a playing field beside Cardiff Castle.

It was the inaugural Lord’s Taverners Yorkshire Balloon Debate in 2013.

I agreed to take part in this oratorical jousting match over several glasses of wine in Restaurant Bar & Grill in Leeds with the then Yorkshire chairman of cricketing charity the Lord’s Taverners, Simon Chappell.

He told me that a high profile figure in the business community like me would be ideal to take the fourth and final slot in their upcoming charity dinner and debate.

I agreed only to discover that I was up against BBC legend and thinking housewives’ crumpet Harry Gration, football commentator John Helm – a veteran of several World Cups – and actor Gordon Kennedy, who had played Little John in the BBC’s Robin Hood series and wrote and starred in comedy show Absolutely.

What I then discovered was that Simon had been let down by Nigel Farage and needed a replacement sharpish.

My rising anxiety levels and self doubt rocketed when I saw a flyer for the event.

There were lovely photos of the other three speakers and then a blacked out head and shoulders image captioned “mystery guest”.

Simon assured me that print deadlines had meant they couldn’t include my photo, by that point I was convinced I was a makeweight who would disappoint the audience of 130 highly successful business people.

If you’ve not heard of a balloon debate before, it involves four speakers all there to talk about their sporting heroes.

The premise is that all four sporting heroes are in a balloon which is thousands of feet in the air but losing height.

The aim of the speakers is to keep their sports person in the balloon over three rounds of debate during which the audience vote out three of them.

One of them is voted out after they have all spoken for six minutes, another when the remaining trio have each spoken for another four minutes and then one more when the last pair have spoken for a final two minutes each.

I spent the weeks running up to the event desperately trying to think of a sporting hero to talk about.

Muhammad Ali? Pele?

I only needed six minutes of material as I was certain I was going to be the first one jettisoned from the imaginary balloon.

Through the fog of panic I then had a moment of clarity and inspiration.

It happened at a Huddersfield Town match.

Match day announcer Paul “Rambo” Ramsden was interviewing former player Frank Worthington in the hospitality lounge after the game.

The Yorkshire-born former England striker was a striking figure in a black pinstripe suit, black shirt and tie with piano keys on it, thinning hair slicked back and pencil moustache.

Rambo’s first question was a masterpiece of brilliant understatement.

“Frank, you were a bit of a ladies man weren’t you?”

Now I can’t recall Worthington’s answer word for word as I didn’t make a contemporaneous shorthand note.

But it was something like: “Oh yes, I had ‘em all. I went out with the first Page Three girl…but she left me for a Bay City Roller.”


Here was my sporting hero.

All these memories came flooding back this week with the news that Frank Worthington had died.

Aged just 72, he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for several years.

The diligent research I did on Frank showed a man who had led a life well lived.

A legendary figure renowned not just for his on the field abilities, but his off the pitch shenanigans too.

A man whose autobiography was entitled: “One Hump or Two”.

He played for 24 clubs during a 25 year career, but also played frequently at top clubs including Tramp, Stringfellows and the Playboy club.

A massive Elvis fan who would burst into song at the drop of a Stetson, Frank gained legend status at several clubs including Huddersfield and Leicester and scored what has to be one of the greatest goals ever seen for Bolton against Ipswich in April 1979, juggling the ball with his back to goal on the edge of the penalty area before turning, knocking the ball over the onrushing defenders and volleying low into the corner.

He might have been one of the greatest natural talents that English football has ever seen but it was his activities off the pitch that also made headlines.

When Bill Shankly tried to sign him for Liverpool from Huddersfield for a record transfer fee of £150,000 in 1972, he failed his medical due to high blood pressure.

Shankly suggested Frank get away for some R&R and paid for him to fly to Majorca for a week before returning to retake the medical a week later.

The player met a Swedish mother and daughter on the plane and what followed on the Balearic island was later reported by the Huddersfield Examiner as “seven days of carousing, which involved…a night with Miss Great Britain, a casual encounter at the airport with a woman whose name he didn’t catch and a night with a young Belgian beauty.

“He retook the medical. His blood pressure was even higher. A bemused Shankly cancelled the deal and sent his mother some flowers.”

It isn’t very woke, but even a casual observer might be prompted to echo the words of boxing commentator Harry Carpenter when Frank Bruno caught Mike Tyson with a left hook during their heavyweight championship clash in Las Vegas: “Get in there Frank!”

Every time I recounted a story about the footballer at the Balloon Debate I ended it by exclaiming: “Get in there Frank!”

It caught the attention of the audience and I got to the final of the debate leaving a head-to-head with Yorkshire broadcasting royalty Harry Gration in which we only had two minutes each to persuade the audience to keep our sporting hero in that balloon before it reached the ground.

Thanks to Frank Worthington I won the Balloon Debate with more than 100 of the audience voting in my favour.

Now can I prove this great sporting achievement ever actually happened?

The short answer is no, because no one took any photographs of the event and the bottle of champagne I was presented with for winning was drunk about 3am after the bar of the Malmaison Hotel in Leeds shut.

I headed home to bed, giddy, exhilarated and mentally spent.

But perhaps inspired by Frank Worthington I can now admit something I have never, ever revealed before now.

I had a threesome.

Well, there were two no shows.

Have a great weekend.

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