Jun 21 2012 The Liverpool Post
Former Tranmere boss Les Parry tells Nick Hilton about life after management
GETTING the sack by Tranmere helped Les Parry make a discovery he had not been expecting: he is happy to go back to football as a sponge man.
The long serving physiotherapist, who spent his final two and a half years at Prenton Park as manager, considered the option of taking his career in a new direction after Rovers showed him the door, 13 matches from the end of the season.
Parry’s initial reaction, when more than 20 years of continuous employment and wholehearted commitment to his hometown club came to an abrupt end in early March, was to guess that it might be time to try something different.
He thought about adjusting his focus to the medical side and, with a PhD with honours in the field of sports injuries, he could think about the prospect of lecturing at universities.
Then Accrington Stanley, a League Two club who are so strapped for cash that the directors pull on overalls to help with repairs to the ground, asked him to join the backroom staff as physio.
The invitation was made by Paul Cook, a former Tranmere midfielder who has been building his own managerial CV with spells at Southport and Sligo Rovers and who took over at Accrington at the start of the year.
Parry agreed to do the job until the end of the season. Once back in a dressing room environment, back amongst players, football men and their banter, he found he was hooked all over again.
Accrington want Parry to sign up for next season and, with the need to put bread on the table a pressing issue, he may not be able to turn them down.
Parry explained: “After I left Tranmere (wife) Elaine and I went on holiday to Portugal for five days. While I was there I got a call from Cookie, asking if I fancied coming into Accrington to sort the physio side out. I thought about it for a day or two and said yes.
“The biggest benefit of doing that was to find out if I wanted to go back to doing a physio’s job again. Just before I took over as manager at Tranmere I had been thinking about getting out of football altogether because of the hours and the work load. As a manager that workload increased. It was 16 hours a day and I was away one weekend in two. I hardly ever saw the missus.
“I thought I would not want to go back into football so soon after Tranmere. But once I was involved with the buzz of the dressing room again it made me realise what I had been missing – and I had only been using it for a week or two!”
Parry added: “It helps that Accrington have a great bunch of lads and I get on with Paul Cook very well. The upshot of it all is yes, I want to be staying in football.”
Parry says he has to be realistic about his next career goals. A job in the fitness/medical department at a big club is the kind of ideal opportunity that rarely turns up. As for lecturing at a university, he explained: “I tried to get a part-time job doing that while I was a physio at Tranmere but it was impossible once I became manager.
“The chances of me jumping into a full-time lecturing job are slim because I don’t have the experience. I will have to get my toe in the door first.”
Parry was tied to Tranmere for so long that the separation is going to take some getting used to. “My car still wants to drive to Prenton Park every day, like it is on autopilot,” he said. “Going into another club, things are done differently. You can’t help yourself thinking: Tranmere did it this way. You have to be careful you don’t get on people’s nerves by saying that all the time.”
But his devotion to the club he supported from boyhood has not been shaken by the dismissal. Rather than being resentful about the way new manager Ronnie Moore turned around results straight away, Parry says he was simply delighted to see the team climb the table and pull quickly away from the threat of relegation.
“I know some people won’t believe me but I wanted Tranmere to do well as soon as I left,” he said. “I wasn’t bitter about the sack. I was disappointed. But if I was in the chairman’s shoes, I would have done what he did.”
Parry listened on the radio to the first Tranmere match he’d missed in more than two decades as Moore took charge for the home fixture against Notts County on March 7.
“When John Welsh scored the equaliser in the last minute of injury time I was made up,” Parry said. “Listening to that game was more stressful than watching it. I think that goal was the spark that got Tranmere on to the good run and enabled them to finish safe.”
Parry remains proud of his record of keeping Tranmere in League One on a budget for players that would have put them in the bottom four of the division in each of the seasons he was manager.
He said: “When Ronnie Moore left Tranmere in the summer of 2009 they had just announced a 30% cut in the budget. It had a massive impact at the time. John Barnes took over and left in October. Then it was me. I had two and a half years of managing at a time of massive financial transition of the club.
“Keeping them in League One wasn’t enough for some people but when you look at the overall situation, I don’t think I did badly.
“At the end of last season I brought in close to £1 million in transfer revenue from Dale Jennings (to Bayern Munich) and Aaron Cresswell (to Ipswich Town). Those fees won’t show up in the accounts until next year but I left the club in a far better financial position than when I took over.
“I think my record in bringing players in stands up very well. Ronnie Moore kept quite a few of them on.”
For Parry, the positives far outweigh the negatives when he looks back on his time as manager of Tranmere. The worst moments were during the final two months of the season when the team became trapped in a sequence of Groundhog Day games, many of which were lost by a single goal. Meanwhile elements of supporters, mostly the younger generation, turned their anger on Parry.
“I did not find it stressful in that I wasn’t sleeping,” Parry said. “I kept looking at what I was doing when we were winning games early in the season and what I was doing then. There was no difference. We were losing games by a whisker.
“As for the supporters who had a go at me, I always respected they have a view.”
Parry says he has the appetite for another crack at management but isn’t sure where the opportunity might come from. He said: “I’ve got to be realistic. I was a one club man and that’s what got me the opportunity at Tranmere in the first place. Now the only clubs that would consider me are those who want someone to do a stabilising job on a small budget. I think my record on a limited budget is better than most managers – but those jobs are few and far between.”