Martin Kenny looks back on a memorable Festive treble.
Exactly 30 years ago on New Years Day 1992 ex Stratford Town Centre Forward Dennis Bailey scored a hat trick at Old Trafford that would change the course of the First Division title.
Just a day after Alex Fergusons 50th Birthday Queens Park Rangers attacking football caught out a tired looking Manchester United team. This was the final season of the Football League and the arrival of Eric Cantona at Leeds United would ensure the elevation of the Elland Road club to become Champions.
Only Ronaldo for Real Madrid, the Brazilian version in April 2003 and Mohammed Salah last October for Liverpool have matched Baileys hat trick in the last three decades.
There can be few such comprehensive performances than that of Bailey at Old Trafford. He set up several great opportunities for Andy Sinton and Roy Wegerle and took his chances to leave the Manchester United defence helpless and unable to handle his pace and balance.
Bailey arrived at Loftus Road from Birmingham City having gained a reputation as a strong pacey Centre Forward with a decent strike rare scoring 23 goals in 75 games. It had taken £10,000 to take Bailey from non league Farnborough to Crystal Palace in August 1987.
A short term loan to Bristol Rovers had alerted Birmingham City to his ability and they signed him in August 1989. It took £175,000 for QPR to acquire his services and the attack on the break style of play definitely suited Bailey.
In all Dennis would play for 18 clubs in a long career and arrived at Masons Road in 2004. Renowned for his hard work and enthiastic approach Bailey quickly became a popular player and a welcome addition to the Midlands Alliance. Although in this period the town would only finish mid table the performances of Bailey drew attention throughout the league.
One of his biggest regrets was that he never got the matchday ball signed by the Manchester United players. Only years later in 1999 did he discover why they didn’t sign it, when Alex Ferguson published his autobiography.
In an interview with the Independent Bailey recalls “it was probably down to my naivety. I was a young player, I had done the TV interviews, just come off the pitch beaming and gone into the away dressing room. All my team mates were jumping up and down congratulating me. They were saying go on get it signed.
So I took the ball and went in to the United dressing room, big grin on my face and asked can you sign my ball please? No one said a word. All the United players were sitting in silence Bruce looked up at me and just put his head down. I was stood up there and it felt like ages. It was probably only 10 seconds. I said again can you sign my ball please? No one said a word. I thought they aren’t going to sign it. What I didn’t know was that Ferguson was behind me. I hadn’t seen him when I opened the door. He was giving them the hairdryer treatment and I had come bursting in with a big grin on my face and interrupted him. It was a shame from my point of view but I didn’t realise what Ferguson had been doing. Now I think about the expressions on their faces and it makes sense it was the wrong time.
In the intervening years since retiring from football Bailey coached children in South Africa in the townships prior to the World Cup over there and in the West Midlands and Stratford. The reaction of children often wearing their Man United shirts when they hear about his hat trick is interesting. There is no big car or superstar lifestyle but then again no one has football memories to compare to Dennis Bailey.