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Bailey still grateful to Blackburn Rovers
Bailey will be remembered by most in football for the seven years he enjoyed at Goodison Park, helping Howard Kendall’s Everton establish themselves as one of England’s top teams, but he insists none of that would have been possible had it not been for his Ewood Park education.
As Blackburn Rovers prepare to visit Bristol City this afternoon in the Championship, the 55-year-old Liverpudlian admits the memories will come flooding back as he reflects on spells at the very start and end of his career.
He credits his six years at Blackburn Rovers with making him the player he became, while claiming his last three years as a professional footballer – spent at Bristol City – gave him an extra lease of life.
Rovers fans from that generation will have fond memories of a perm-haired Bailey plying his trade at full back between 1975 to 1979, having spent the previous two seasons as an apprentice in East Lancashire.
He played in Division Two under Jim Smith, Jim Iley and John Pickering, before leaving for Everton for £300,000 in 1979 after Rovers’ relegation to Division Three.
“I owe so much to Blackburn Rovers,” he said. “They brought me up in the game and, without what I learned there, I might never have gone and enjoyed the success I did at Everton.
“It was a great apprenticeship, with some marvellous characters and players.
“I remember the likes of Tony Parkes, Derek Fazackerley, Graham Hawkins.
“Great players, great guys and great days.
“I joined Rovers as an apprentice at just 16 and two years later got offered a professional contract.
“They really were fantastic days.
“The club was very different to how it is now, in terms of finance and facilities, but we were all happy.”
Bailey, who now does a lot of PR work for Everton, admits he still sees Rovers as a ‘Premier League club’ after marvelling at the progress made since his days at Ewood.
He said: “It was the old Ewood Park, I’m sure everyone will know what I mean by that.
“You look at the fac-ilities and the finance at the club now and it is a different world.
“I would not have swapped my time though.
“My apprenticeship at the club was a real app-renticeship. Youngsters these days just don’t get the education we got.
“I remember cleaning the boots and sweeping the terraces, now they all drive in in their BMWs.
“It was a bit different finan-cially as well. I got £8 a week as an apprentice and £25 a week as a pro at Rovers.
“The money you are talking about now is obscene.
“Maybe some are worth it but there are so many average players earning so much money.
“Blackburn brought me up and it has been fantastic to see them achieve what they have.
“It is a shame to see them in recent times, the manager certainly looks to be under pressure, but I hope they get back up because that is where the club should be now.”
While Bailey has fond memories of his Blackburn Rovers spell, he admits he will have divided loyalties for this afternoon’s Ashton Gate test.
He made almost 100 league appearances during three years for the Robins, between 1988 and 1991, as he ended his career in style.
“Bristol City prolonged my career,” he said.
“I felt it was all coming to an end at Newcastle when Bristol City gave me a chance and I loved my time there.
“We reached the League Cup semi finals against Nottingham Forest and we also got promoted into the old Division Two.
“Joe Jordan was a great manager.
“He made sure his players were so fit – I actually think I could still be playing now, if he was in charge of my training.
“Everton are obviously my club but Blackburn Rovers and Bristol City were both fantastic for me.
“I will certainly be keeping an eye out for the result on Saturday.”