PHIL PARKINSON enjoyed a successful career as a player and he has also achieved a lot as a manager.

But there was one big disappointment during an 18-year playing career which saw him make more than 500 league appearances for Bury and Reading - he never featured in a match at Wembley.

Injury denied Parkinson the chance to play at the iconic stadium during his nine-year spell with Reading where he became a massive fans’ favourite.

The Royals reached the Division One play-off final at the end of the 1994-95 season but Parkinson watched on from the sidelines as his team-mates were denied a place in the Premier League by Bolton Wanderers who won 4-3 following a epic contest.

The 55-year-old spoke of his frustration at not being able to take to the pitch and play on the big stage.

“People of our generation grew up watching the FA Cup final,” said Parkinson. “It was probably the biggest day in the football calendar and when I became a footballer, playing at Wembley became a real ambition.

“Unfortunately I never got a chance to do it. The one time Reading got there I was injured and I missed the play-off game.

“I had been injured for a few months; it wasn’t like a late injury, I missed the last few months of the season.

“When you miss out on a big day it is disappointing but you are supportive to the rest of the group, and you are part of the day.”

Parkinson knows how important it is for a footballer to say they have played at Wembley.

“It was a thing which bugged me all my career; I wanted to play there but never got the chance to play at Wembley,” said Parkinson.

“For players, it is a special place to play and you can tell your grandkids in years to come that you played at this fantastic stadium.”

A Wembley run-out eluded Parkinson before he hung his boots up but since moving into management in 2003, he has been in the dug-out under the arch.

Heading back to the London stadium for a third time as a ‘gaffer’ on Sunday with Wrexham for the FA Trophy final against Bromley, both of Parkinson’s previous visits to Wembley as manager came in a hugely successful 2012-13 season when he was in charge of League Two outfit Bradford City.

The Bantams claimed the scalp of Arsenal and Aston Villa, among others, to reach the League Cup showpiece where they were beaten 5-0 by top-flight Swansea City, but it was still a remarkable run for a fourth tier side which resulted in Parkinson being rewarded with the Outstanding Managerial Achievement award.

“We beat Arsenal, and we beat Aston Villa over two legs in the semi-final which was the big one to reach the final,” said Parkinson.

“I was the first manager ever to take a fourth tier team to a Wembley final - and not many English managers have got to a major final.

“It was an incredible run.

“We came unstuck in the final against an outstanding Swansea team but we were a team of League Two players up against a multi-million pound team.

“It didn’t go our way but the occasion is still something I will never forget.”

A few months later and Bradford were back at Wembley for the League Two play-off final against Northampton Town.

A 3-0 win against Northampton, who had current Wrexham centre-back Ben Tozer in the side, resulted in the Bantams being promoted to League One and winning at the stadium for the first time was an unbelievable feeling for Parkinson who is hoping to experience the same feat with the Reds this weekend.

“We beat Northampton in the play-off final so I have won at Wembley,” said Parkinson “When I won as a manager at Wembley, I remember sitting on the coach thinking ‘it is great being at Wembley but it is even better to win at Wembley’.

“I felt that and it is just a great day for everybody.

“It is great to be there and I have enjoyed the build-up but we want to bring the trophy back.

“It is an amazing stadium to play at but I have been fortunate enough to manage there and I really enjoyed it.

“I am looking forward to experiencing it again at the weekend.”

Parkinson, who boasts nearly two decades of experience as a manager, took charge of six clubs - Colchester, Hull, Charlton, Bradford, Bolton and Sunderland - before taking The Racecourse hotseat last summer when he signed a 12-month rolling contract.

During his time in the dug-out, Parkinson has won promotion on three occasions but he now gets the chance to win a cup competition with Wrexham.

Although promotion remains the priority, with expectations even higher since Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney completed their takeover of the third oldest club in the world in February 2021, the Reds boss is eager for success on Sunday.

“The club has kind of evolved quickly this season,” said Parkinson, who still has the National League play-offs to look forward to after Wrexham finished runners-up to Stockport having taken the title race down to the final game of the season.

“Not just the squad but off the pitch as well.

“Everything about the club has been almost fast-tracked.

“We are going down there with the intention of rewarding our supporters.

“It is going to be tough, Bromley have been preparing for this game for a long time because they have had nothing to play for but I feel we are in a decent place.

“It is not as though we have had a midweek game. We have had a nice week to prepare and we will go down there ready to give our all to bring the trophy back.”