Harrogate Town v Leeds United: Parker looking forward to facing old club

Ben Parker.
Ben Parker.
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Ben Parker will take a trip down memory lane today believing Leeds United will be “pleasantly surprised” by the quality of his Harrogate Town side in the Thorp Arch friendly.

Parker, 29, spent 16 years with Leeds before leaving for Guiseley in 2013 and the left-back is now approaching his second season with current club Harrogate Town.

After joining the Whites as an eight year old, the drive to United’s Thorp Arch training ground where today’s friendly will be staged will be a well-trodden path.

And while National League North outfit Town only returned to pre-season training this Monday, the defender is hopeful that Simon Weaver’s visitors will be capable of giving United a run for their money.

Town looked destined to play a major part in last season’s National League North promotion race but eventually fell away to finish 11th.

But Town have since gone full-time and Parker says his former side will be facing a non-league team very much on the up.

“The main aim for us this year is promotion,” Parker told the YEP. “Last year we thought that on paper we had built a good squad to actually challenge and get promoted automatically by winning the league.

“Throughout the year, there was injuries and there’s other little things that happened and we tailed off to be honest and we were quite disappointed how it finished.

“This year as a club we are going full-time so we are going to be training day in, day out just like any other professional club up and down the Football League and we are hoping that’s going to be the next step to actually get us promoted.

“We have signed some good players and just like any squad, we just need to all gel as quickly as possible and hit the ground running.

“I’m excited about what’s coming up and I think the Leeds players will be pleasantly surprised by the quality that will crop up against them on Wednesday. We are all looking forward to it as obviously playing a massive club like Leeds, everyone gets up for it, even though it’s pre-season. We are really looking forward to it.”

The game was initially scheduled to take place at Town’s CNG Stadium home but the fixture was moved following discussions with United’s medical team regarding Town’s 3G pitch. Parker will have no excuses if getting lost en route from his Wakefield home.

Parker reasoned: “I would have loved them to have come to the CNG because it would have attracted a big crowd with it being Leeds’ first pre-season game and ours.

“It would have made for a good atmosphere.

“But the medical team at Leeds won’t have made the decision lightly. I can understand where they are coming from and from a personal point of view it’s probably better for me that I can go up to Thorp Arch!

“I’ll be on auto pilot come Wednesday in a way – the drive up the A1 and then straight to Thorp Arch. There’s not many people left from my time there but hopefully I will get to see a few familiar faces.”

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