DARREN Dunning is convinced York City’s spirits will have been immediately lifted the moment his former team-mate Jon Parkin walked back into Bootham Crescent.

The 34-year-old forward is as renowned for his larger-than-life personality, as he is the goalscoring exploits that have seen him net 175 times in senior football and Dunning reckons his grinning face will help get everybody else smiling, following one of the gloomiest periods in the club’s history.

City currently sit second-bottom in the National League table and have not won for 17 games, but ex-City skipper Dunning knows Parkin is not one for moping about such sorry statistics.

On the impact of Parkin’s arrival, Dunning said: “His biggest influence will be in the dressing room. The lads are on one hell of a run in terms of not winning games, but he will go in there like he’s never been away and he’s one of those players that every manager wants in the dressing room for his banter.

“He will be the life and soul of the place – there’s no doubt about that. At 6ft 4in, you can’t miss him and he’s never going to go under the radar.

“He’ll definitely pick the lads’ spirits up. Players will also look up to him because he’s an experienced player who has been around the block and played for some good clubs.

“It’s a bit like the hero coming back and I’m just hoping that, when I look at the score on Saturday afternoon, York have won 2-0 at Tranmere and Jon has scored both, because that would give everyone such a lift.”

With this term’s struggles coming on the back of the club’s relegation from the Football League last season, there has been a grave air at Bootham Crescent for much of the last 12 months, but Dunning expects Parkin to lighten that mood with his old-school pranks.

“He used to put Deep Heat in people’s boxer shorts or mess about with their shoelaces, either cutting them up or tying them together - all the classics really,” Dunning smiled.

Former Blackburn and Bristol City midfielder Dunning also believes Parkin will be the centre of attention on the pitch, as well as off it, pointing out: “Every side needs a focal point and you know, with Jon, that if you put the ball into the box, you will have a chance of scoring.

“In the predicament York are in at the moment, they will have tried anything they can to get points and it’s not a bad thing to be able to put it in the mix for a big man when you know he will cause problems. If you are a winger, you’re just thinking ‘get the ball in the box’ because, if you put a decent cross in, he won’t be far away.

“Others can run off him and he’s also got that capability of turning 30 yards out and the next thing you know the ball is in the top corner. He can look like he’s doing nothing and you think he’s knackered and, then, he will smash one in because he’s got one hell of a strike on him.

“At 34, he’s no spring chicken, but he can still do a job for York and he will give the other players confidence, which must be low.”

Dunning was a member of the first City squad to be relegated from the Football League in 2004, enduring the club’s longest run of games without a win of 21, which included the opening fixture of the following campaign.

The current team are closing in on that unenviable record but, just as Billy McEwan eventually turned the tide at Bootham Crescent with signings like Clayton Donaldson and Manny Panther, Dunning feels that key additions, in a week that saw Parkin’s arrival coincide with highly-rated Forest Green pair Rhys Murphy and Aarran Racine, can quickly transform fortunes.

He added: “Players need to stick together as much as they can in times like this. Some might be talking about going to other clubs, but they are playing for their careers and livelihoods.

“I remember when we went on that run and people were saying we weren’t working hard enough, but that wasn’t the case. We simply weren’t good enough to stay up.

“Once you get into a run like that, it’s so hard to turn things around and every time the other team scores it’s such a blow. Getting one or two players in can lift the whole place though sometimes.”

Dunning is also certain, meanwhile, that the February departures of Parkin and Lee Bullock back in 2004 proved pivotal moments in consigning the Minstermen to their first eight-year stint in Conference football.

“I’ve no doubt if Lee Bullock and Jon Parkin had stayed we would have stayed in that division,” Dunning insisted. “I can clearly remember Carlisle being the last team we beat on January 10 and, at that point, the hierarchy probably thought we were safe, but you never are until it’s mathematically certain and we never replaced either of them.”

Nor was Dunning surprised by the progress Parkin subsequently made, including stints in the Championship with five different teams, during which time he helped Stoke clinch promotion into the Premier League in 2008.

“He was always one of those lads who had the ability,” Dunning reasoned. “A lot of managers also like a big lad up top.

“I think when Jon was at York, it was a case of how much did he want it and that would determine how high he played so, when he got his moves to big clubs, I think the penny dropped and he realised he could do alright in the game. He slimmed down a lot after leaving us, got a lot fitter and he’s been a pro for a long time now.”

The Minstermen’s recent struggles have seen another one of Dunning’s team-mates Christian Fox suggest on Twitter that he has seen better players in the city’s local leagues than those who have played for the club during this campaign.

Former keeper David Stockdale went on to join in the debate, adding that all professional teams could scout more effectively on their doorstep.

Dunning, himself, is the player-manager of current York Minster Engineering League double-winners Old Malton St Mary’s.

He has also won three Premier League titles during his six-year association with Old Malton but, having plied his trade for three years as a professional with City in the Football League and Conference, he feels the gap from parks football to professional level is too wide to bridge.

“I think the step up from the York League is too big to be honest and I don’t think there’s anybody at the moment who would be capable of doing that,” he reasoned. “It’s alright people thinking they could, but they’ve got to be able to do it when they get there.

“In the six seasons I’ve been playing locally, I’ve seen one or two who might do well, but they wouldn’t make a massive difference. There are players who are making that step up to Pickering and Tadcaster, who do well, but there’s quite a big gap when you go up a couple more leagues and I don’t think anybody is quite at that stage from what I’ve seen.”

Elsewhere, Sean Newton has won The Press Player of the Month for November prize.

The former Wrexham left back finished one point ahead of his nearest rivals Yan Klukoswki and Simon Lappin in a very close contest.

Newton jumped to the top of the standings after receiving the most man-of-the-match votes from our online Twitter poll during Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw with Guiseley, earning the two bonus points on offer towards the competition.

The Press points, meanwhile, were shared between our man-of-the match Shaun Rooney (three) and respective second and third-highest rated performers Matt Fry (two) and Callum Rzonca (one).

During the 3-0 defeat at Bromley last weekend, Alex Whittle (three points) was out star man, with the efforts of Kyle Letheren (two) and Charlie Cooper (one) also recognised.

Letheren topped the Twitter poll to receive the additional two points available.

The Press Player of the Year standings: Letheren 21, Whittle 18, Connolly 16, Heslop 13, Brodie 12, Kamdjo 10, Flinders 8, Fry 7, Higgins 7, Felix 5, Galbraith 5, Rooney 5, Newton 4, Klukowski 3, Lappin 3, Clappison 2, Dixon 2, Wright 2, Cooper 1, Holmes 1, Nti 1, Oyebanjo 1, Rzonca 1, Simpson 1, Walton 1.

The November Press Player of the Month standings: Newton 6, Klukowski 5, Lappin 5, Connolly 4, Letheren 4, Rooney 3, Whittle 3, Flinders 2, Fry 2, Kamdjo 2, Cooper 1, Heslop 1, Holmes 1, Rzonca 1.

Goals: Brodie 7, Connolly 3, Heslop 3, Fry 2, Klukowski 2, Fenwick 1, Galbraith 1, Kamdjo 1, Nti 1, Own Goal 1, Rzonca 1, Wright 1.

Assists: Connolly 6, Rooney 3, Felix 2, Galbraith 2, Whittle 2, Wright 2, Cooper 1, Fry 1, Heslop 1, Higgins 1, Holmes 1, Klukowski 1, Newton 1.

Bad boys: Brodie nine yellow cards; Rooney eight yellow; Higgins five yellow; Heslop one red, three yellow; Fry four yellow; Nti one red, two yellow; Fenwick, Wright both three yellow; Connolly, Kamdjo, Klukowski, Whittle all two yellow; Moke one red; Clappison, Dixon, Galbraith, Johnson, Letheren, McDaid, Newton, Thompson all one yellow.