Steve Parmenter with the FA Cup in his playing days at Canvey Island. Picture: Nicky Hayes
By David Richardson
Steve Parmenter will always remember the mid-game exchange with a referee that inspired him to become one.
As he charged into the penalty area for Canvey Island, reviewing the man in black’s performance as a ‘mare’, the official Phil Crossley simply replied with, “go and learn the laws”.
So that’s what Parmenter did and over a decade later he’s now officiating in the National League and the U23 ‘Premier League 2’.
“The last game I officiated on the Premier League 2, which was Brighton v Manchester City, the observer, who comes to watch how we’re doing, it was him! Every time I see Phil I say to him it’s your fault I’m refereeing!” laughs Parmenter. “He’s such a nice lad and a really good ref.”
The fateful backchat came at a time when Canvey Island were becoming one of Non-League’s big names backed by the finance of local businessman and manager-owner Jeff King.
Parmenter, a versatile midfielder-striker, had dropped out of the Football League after playing for Bristol Rovers under Ian Holloway and joined midway through the 1998-99 season as Canvey won promotion to the Isthmian Premier.
At the turn of the millennium, the club was put on the map. They won the FA Trophy at Aston Villa, beating Forest Green Rovers 1-0, while also reaching the FA Cup second round where they lost to local rivals Southend United having seen off Port Vale after a replay following a 4-4 draw.
Meanwhile, they were in a title battle with Farnborough but ran out of steam as the fixtures piled up. “We played seven games in nine days!” recalls Parmenter, who scored in the second leg of their Trophy semi-final at Chester. “When we finished the season we had played something like 18 games in 26 days.
“We got to Boreham Wood one night and there were ducks swimming on the pitch – we played it the next day! We were getting home from work and going to football every single night. The one thing that will grate me until the day I die was that the Trophy final wasn’t at Wembley! It was the first year Wembley had shut down. But it was a great day out at Aston Villa and topped off by winning.”
More success was to come. The following season they went one better and reached the FA Cup third round leading to more national recognition with Parmenter, a part-time window cleaner at the time, having a visit from the trophy itself at his parents’ house.
“I had a hand in the goal the previous round against Northampton,” reflects Parmenter, who was part of the side that eventually lost 4-1 at Burnley. “Julian Dicks played the ball into me, I flicked it onto Mark Stimson, who in turn flicked it on to Neil Gregory, who scored.
“I got booked after about 20 minutes for a foul on Kevin Ball, who just looked like he wanted to kill me. I spent the next hour thinking I don’t know when it’s going to happen but it’s coming!”
The cup distraction came at a cost as Canvey finished second again, behind Gravesend & Northfleet, with 95 points. It happened once more – this time 92 points wasn’t enough as Aldershot Town romped home before Canvey finally chalked up 104 in 2003-04 to reach the top tier.
In the same year they also reached the FA Cup first round and the FA Trophy final again but were beaten 3-2 by Hednesford Town.
Parmenter wasn’t named in the squad for the final and knew his time at the club was up.
“They were arguably the happiest six years of my life,” he said. “It was such a great team, we were ex-pros and looked after well. Success on the pitch at that level, at that time was unprecedented really.”
Parmenter moved on to Bishop’s Stortford and Cambridge City before ending his career as kit man at Southend under Steve Tilson. Canvey had two years in the Conference before King left for Chelmsford City in 2006. Parmenter was beginning to referee more and more on Sunday mornings and during training. He had considered coaching having earned his B Licence but officiating looked the better option.
The 43-year-old moved up through the leagues and then chose to specialise in being a linesman. Officials are observed at matches and given a mark out of 100 which is then translated into a league table.
Last season, Parmenter was promoted to Step 1 and has been impressing at his new level.
“I’m flying in the Premier League 2 list and I’m about halfway in the National League so, putting it both together, I think I’m doing ok considering it is my first season and I didn’t expect to go up anyway.
“I’ve really enjoyed the games I’ve had. It’s a different level compared to Conference South. You’re mic’d up, there’s an observer watching you at every game, you’re at a stadium at 12.30 not 1.30, if people knew what went in to the preparation they wouldn’t believe it.
“I’ve got a coach who gives feedback, everything is broken down. The referees in the National League are outstanding. They’re the fittest they’ve ever been, their positioning, eating right, sport science, training schedule, everything is geared up for these referees to be professional.”
Parmenter is a Met Police officer by day but hopes to get a chance in the Football League and perhaps even that elusive Wembley final.
“With the stresses and pressure of the day job, football is a walk in the park. When I get 500 Yeovil fans calling me a t**t, it just makes me laugh. It’s not a kid with a knife – it’s not serious, it’s a game of football.
“I love football. I started at Ipswich at 14, and I’m still in it. I want to be able to say I’ve played and officiated in the Football League. That’s the aim.”