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Friday, January 20, 2006

Interview with Gary Bailey 2001

Red News: Some of our readers might be a bit vague about what you've been up to since you left Old Trafford - could you fill us in?
Gary Bailey: I firstly played for 2 more years for Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa. I missed playing and didn't really fancy doing any other type of work. I also realised that to get back into business in SA, I needed to raise my profile, so playing for the biggest club in Africa seemed like a sensible step. Then I set up a business teaching black workers about business principles using soccer eg; communication, team work, being accurate, etc. This went well but it wasn't what I really wanted to do....which was to be close to soccer without being a manager! So I then made the decision to work in the media and started by accepting a job with a local radio station as their sports editor. At the same time I started working on local Tv as a soccer guest...that was in 1990. Now 11 years later, I'm the main soccer anchor for all the soccer on Supersport (the equivalent of Sky) and we get 4 live English premier matches a week, plus all the FA cup, Worthington cup and First division games. I also completed my MBA from Henley in Oxford, but still decided that working in TV is where my passion lies.
RN: Was it always the intention to return to South Africa and leave England?
GB: I wasn't sure about returning to SA...but the longer I stayed in Manchester, the more I became homesick for the sunshine and beaches. Although I really enjoyed the people in Manchester, I couldn't wait to get home for holidays, so when my retirement suddenly happened, I knew that I would only be happy back in SA. My family were still in Johannesburg and my fiancee was from Cape Town so those were both added factors.
RN: Do you have any contact with United in any form nowadays?
GB: I don't have much contact with United....I suppose I initially wanted to get into a new's difficult for fans to understand but after 10 years as a soccer pro, I just wanted to live a normal life, relaxing on weekends, not playing on Xmas and New years day and having long holidays. The only problem is that after doing this for a few years, you begin to realise what a good life you actually had as a soccer pro! So I concentrated on the media, and left my United career behind. Being far away didn't make it easier, and when I have returned, no one seemed that bothered so it made me realise that I'm only part of history and time has moved on. There's no bitterness, just a realisation that other players now have the opportunity to enjoy their careers at Old T. I have been discussing getting involved with United in overseas expansion plans but none of those have come to fruition, so I've left that idea behind for the time being.
RN: Going back to your early career it was some elevation from being given a trial at United in January 1978 to a full debut just a few months later in November 1978...
GB: When I joined Utd, I spent much of my time in the A team, and when Alex Stepney injured himself, I moved up to the reserves and played quite well. It was only when Jim Blyths medical failed that I got my chance, and although I took it k really well, it probably come too early in my career. I battled for the first 6 months and the FA Cup Final of '79 didn't help....although it did toughen me up and the following season was probabaly one of my best, leading to a 2nd finish in the league. It was wonderful playing well and playing in front of the old Stretford End.....the singing was magic and I loved playing at all the grounds that I had dreamt of as a kid. The problems came off the pitch.....I started to get homesick, missing my family, friends and sunshine...and then I found it difficult to be accepted in the dressing room, especially coming from university. After my first full season (79/80), I joined the England team abroad and then only had 2 weeks holiday before returning for the new season...I lasted 3 months before my batteries run dry and as soon as I started to play badly, I realised how hard football can be. The players were on my back, the press hammered me and I had no idea how to handle lack of apprenticeship was my problem, and I just had to learn the hardway. It probably took me 2 years of indifferent performances before I started to regain my full confidence and towards the end of the 84/85 season I felt I was playing well again. The new season began with us winning the first 10 games and I was back in the England team and this time injury stopped my progress and I only managed a few more games later that season before going to the world cup. That was when I totally messed up my knee. A year later and 5 games for Alex and it was time to call it quits at 28....the time that I should've been playing my best football.
RN: How important is the feeder club that United have helped set up in South Africa?
GB: The feeder club Utd have set up in SA is yet to get into full swing... it has potential but there's plenty of work still to be done. It probably needs Utd to get more involved and support the venture.
RN: We've heard of problems with the old SA fan club which now seem to be resolving itself, as Utd set up a new marketing and merchandise arm in SA, what were the thoughts on that?
GB: The supporters club problems have been resolved.....all the regions will work thru FC fortune in Cape Town but nothing will change for the supporters..they will still meet every month.
RN: And the classic quote from the first Cup Final against Brighton was 'And Smith must score" - did you think that as well when he had the ball!
GB: The '83 Cup final still annoys me sometimes..Smith didn't miss, I saved it. Had the ball gone over the cross bar or round the post, then it would've been a miss, but instead I blocked it and was first to the rebound...sometimes keepers just can't win!
RN: And the 1979 Final is also remembered by Reds - do you think that cross should have been cut out for their 3rd?
GB: In 1979, the cross from Rix took a slight deflection off Martin Buchan's leg and I think that changed the flight of the ball...ultimately if you leave your line you must get the ball but it was a cruel way to end the game!
RN: Why do you think it was that the great Utd sides of your era - say particularly 1983-84 - never stepped up to lift the title? We hammered the likes of Barca and showed our class but Liverpool took the Championships...
GB: Why did we not win the league in 83/84? Something to do with self belief....we were level with Liverpool with about 4 games to go but somehow they believed they would win it and we weren't sure....yet we had such a good team, perhaps with a bit more luck we could've pulled it off, but we faded the next 2 seasons as well so something was missing in our make up.
RN: United have changed so much these days...
GB: United over the last 10 years have been awesome, a joy to behold. They will continue to win everything because they have the players, the squad size and the self belief...besides that they have Sir Alex. The day he leaves, I hope McClaren or whoever takes over continues the traditions - as Graeme Souness showed, failure to do that could destroy everything that's been built up.
RN: What do you think of United's recent keepers
GB: The greatest in the world was Peter, the fact that I was his hero as a kid was very special for me....but he arrived when he was a mature keeper and played well into his 30's which is the right way to do it. Barthez looks like a worthy contender...he's got the ability, arrogance, success and even his lack of height doesn't seem to be a problem. I do feel sorry for Boz. I'm sure he wants to prove himself but it doesn't seem like he'll get the's something he's going to have to live with.
RN: And, finally, what's next for Gary Bailey?
GB: I'm just completing my A licenses in the UK and I hope to set up a top class academy in SA.....besides that, my TV work is great fun and I'll keep popping in for the odd match at Old T...the SA supporters are due in April for the City home game and I'll be with them...otherwise I'm enjoying the sunshine, beaches, English Premier football and my kids...couldn't ask for much more could I?


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