Mark Bright, a Palace man through-and-through, sits with Parish on matchdays and knows him better than most, and has offered a rare glimpse into just how unrelenting the Eagles chairman is as he bids to kick the club on.
Parish revealed in an exclusive interview with the Evening Standard this week that the time has come to look to the next level in terms of targets at every level of the club, from off-the-pitch infrastructure to Premier League targets on it.
As Palace approach a crucial January window, after nearly a decade of Parish at the helm, Bright has revealed just how persistent the chairman is in his pursuit of improvement and how sections of the support don’t offer their fellow fan the credit he deserves.
“There are huge responsibilities of running a football club and Steve will, more so than me, know that the pressure is on all the time,” Bright told Standard Sport. “You can’t kick back and relax. Once the window closes you plan for the next one and if there is an injury then you start to think: ‘What do we need, what can we get and what money is available?’
“People think that you get £150million a year, but it goes on wages, what is actually left for transfers isn’t much. Steve, by his own admission, isn’t wealthy enough to put his hand in his pocket to compete. You can’t bankroll these clubs with multi-million pounds all the time, you’re not wealthy enough, you’ve got to be a billionaire, look how much [Chelsea owner], Roman Abramovich has spent on that club. Steve will tell you he doesn’t have the money to invest like that, he is doing the best that he can do in the circumstances with the money that is available.”
Parish and his staff in the boardroom have faced questions over investment and recruitment over the past couple of seasons, and while there have been some disappointments over signings, Bright says Parish never stops in looking to add exactly what the club needs. Whether he is in the gym, on the ski slopes or on the beach, the Palace owner never stops.
“Steve is 24/7,” Bright said. “If he texts you at 11pm just for a quick question he doesn’t expect you to say you’re at the cinema or in bed. The way he works, if you ask him a question at any hour he’ll give you an answer. His phone is glued to his hand. He doesn’t go anywhere without it.
“Everybody knows he lives and breathes the club, he is a fan, an owner. Personally I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves because I have sat with him and I know how difficult it is to run a football club because of what he does. The pressures, demands and expectations all lie on you. Trying to deliver a player to the manager, fans… when you get someone over the line it is like a mini-celebration, everyone high-fives. He has signed, he’s joined. But then you have to hope that the player does well. That is all you can do in football. Like any other industry people move but it doesn’t work out. That happens every transfer window. Sometimes there is no answer to why.
“He feels responsible but he is doing is best at all times, regardless of what people think if they see pictures of him skiing or whatever. Trust me, as soon as he gets to the bottom of that ski run he will be on his phone checking messages. He has a charger with him at all times, I’ve been away on family holidays with him and his phone is on charge on the beach. He’ll go for a walk on the beach with his daughters and come back and reply to messages. He is on email all the time. People want answers every day.
“You are always trying to break new ground, could we finish in a European place? You have to try and do something you haven’t already. There is nowhere we couldn’t achieve with our squad. We are always trying to improve.”
My Story: From Foster Care to Footballer by Mark Bright, is published by Constable in hardback, £20.