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Aston Villa's best player from a forgotten era

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The story of Aston Villa's best player of the 1940s.

Shaun Botterill

The decades of and immediately following World War II have always seemed like an interesting period for football. Not long after the whole continent was going through some things, football in Europe began to thrive to such a point that they created a competition pitting the best teams from each country against each other. And league structures began solidifying and and starting to look like what we know today. In this edition of Holte History, lets take a look at one of Villa's most popular and best players of that era.

Harry Parkes was born January 4, 1920 in Birmingham. After playing for a local amateur side, he joined Aston Villa in April 1939. Just a few months into his time at the club, that aforementioned war broke out. During the war, Parkes played 134 wartime games for Villa. Included in that total is the only trophy Parkes would win in his time at the club. Parkes and Villa won the 1944 Football League North Cup, beating Blackpool in the final. He wouldn't actually technically make his full senior debut for the club until 1946.

After the war ended and football resumed in full, Parkes would become one of Villa's most important players. He was extremely versatile and willing to play almost anywhere. He played at least eight positions in his time at Villa. However, his best was fullback, where he regularly held his own against some of the best players of that era.

He also had a  reputation as a joker. He was said to be able to lift the mood no matter how down the team was. He was also known to joke with fans before, after and sometimes during matches.

Parkes was arguably one of the best fullbacks never to be capped for England. Funnily enough, his versatility might've cost him, as the England selectors were said to preferred specialists for each position. Today, it would be hard to pass up someone with his talent who could play as many positions as he could.

Parkes would be a fixture in the Villa team until his retirement in 1955. He made 345 appearances. After his retirement, he opened a sports shop in Birmingham, where he entertained customers with his joking nature. In the 1960s, he was brought onto Villa's board when Doug Ellis took over the club. He would hold that position until a disagreement with Ellis caused him to leave in the early 70s. He actually was briefly a member of the board at Birmingham City too, but we won't hold that against him. He continued to operate his sports shop until his retirement in the 90s. He passed away in March of 2009 at the age of 89.

In a poll of Aston Villa supporters, Parkes was voted the best Villa player of the 1940s. I can't say I've ever seen Harry Parkes play, but with that resume, it's hard to argue.

Sources

http://www.avfc.co.uk/page/NewsDetail/0,,10265~2380267,00.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/harry-parkes-reliable-and-tenacious-aston-villa-fullback-who-regularly-outplayed-more-illustrious-names-1659904.html

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/hundreds-turn-out-for-funeral-of-aston-87304

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/local-news/aston-villa-legend-harry-parkes-86711