Former Blackburn player and coach Tony Parkes has opened up about being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and being robbed of his football memories.
Parkes made 350 appearances for Rovers as a player and was a coach when Blackburn won the Premier League title in 1995. He was caretaker-manager six times at Ewood Park.
Parkes, 70, wants to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s by speaking out.
“It is hard to put two words together,” he told BBC Radio Lancashire Sport.
His daughter Natalie Parkes-Thompson has left her job as a teacher so she can take care of her father, who lives in the Ribble Valley.
She said: “It is sad when we’re watching these matches on the TV and you can’t always remember the details like you used to.”
She said he used to remember “every little thing” about his time Blackburn – including when Kenny Dalglish and Alan Shearer were there and all the practical jokes they played.
“It is hard now as those memories have gone,” she said.
Andy Bayes, BBC Radio Lancashire Sport
Tony Parkes has the tag “Mr Blackburn Rovers”.
This year marks 50 years since he joined Rovers from Buxton Town and he’s been an extremely popular figure ever since, working under 16 managers as a player, coach and assistant boss.
Seeing Tony diagnosed with dementia is very difficult to see. His recall of some of his finest moments just isn’t there any more and that is incredibly sad.
He’s supported wonderfully well by his daughter and son-in-law and has extra help from volunteers at Sporting Memories, who help people with dementia and loneliness.
Seeing Tony in the company of his former players is when he’s at his most vibrant. He’ll be delighted when he’s told how many of his former players from both Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool have sent their best wishes since his diagnosis was made public.
“He looks fine but it is when you try and have [a] conversation,” his daughter said.
“He has still got the glimmers there every now and then, but [he] is not the person I grew up with.”
Blackburn Rovers sent “love and support to club legend Tony Parkes and his family”, adding “the Rovers family is with you”.
A number of former players at Blackburn and Blackpool, where Parkes also coached, have offered their best wishes.
Alan Shearer tweeted it was “so sad to see Tony suffering” and that the “Rovers dressing room loved him”.
Former Blackburn goalkeeper Alan Kelly wrote on Twitter that it was “my privilege to work with & play for Tony for 5 years” while ex-Scotland captain and Rovers defender Colin Hendry said “you are and always will be Mr Blackburn Rovers”.
Ex-Blackpool striker Gary Taylor-Fletcher tweeted that Parkes was “a gentleman” who had a “big influence in what we achieved at Blackpool” in bringing him, Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell to the club ahead of the Seasiders’ subsequent promotion to the Premiership.
Adam said it was “so sad”, describing Parkes as a “great man” and a “very good coach”.
You can hear the full interview on BBC Radio Lancashire Sport from 18:00 BST on Tuesday 4 February.