A trip to Bramall Lane meant so much more for Derby-duo Tracey and Richard Bailey, who attended their 800th consecutive Iron game.
The husband and wife pair arrived at the final game of the regular season having not missed a game for over seventeen seasons and finished the campaign on a high, witnessing six consecutive victories and capping off the 800th game with a 2-0 victory against Sheffield United. James Moody spoke to the pair ahead of the game about their experiences following the Iron up and down the country and their future targets - after all; it's only just under four seasons until they reach the 1000 mark.
How long have you both supported the club?
Being born and bred in Scunthorpe, Tracey has been a life-long supporter but Richard is a relative newcomer having only supported them since 1993. For his sins, Richard supported Hereford United before that and we all know how that ended. In fact, he actually wore two shirts (one for each club) for the Iron versus Hereford fixtures!
Where did it all begin, what was the first game of the run?
17 seasons and 18 games ago in February 1999 at the Abbey Stadium in Cambridge, a 0-0 draw. We went to a lot of games in the previous few seasons but nothing that would constitute a run as such.
How good is it to achieve such a number of consecutive games together as husband and wife?
We have always felt that fate and good fortune have been on our side and we certainly couldn’t have done it without each other’s support. You always need someone to encourage you when results aren’t going your way and it certainly helps to share the driving. All I can say is that it’s a good job we get along as we’ve spent an awful lot of time cooped up in a car together, although we don’t talk very much on the way home after a bad game!
What are your personal highlights over those 800 games - is there one game in particular that stands out for you?
There have been a few memorable moments. Winning the League One title in 2006-2007 is undoubtedly one the club’s greatest achievement, surpassed only by staying in the Championship at the second attempt (albeit for only one season). The League One play-off final against Millwall is one of the greatest football matches we’ve witnessed, a game full of commitment and endeavour from both teams. However, without question, we both agree that the best game of all was the 1-1 Oldham. Leading 1-0, we were reduced to 9 men and a backs-to-the-wall display resulted in a 1-1 draw…a performance of champions in the title-winning season! Also, who could forget that memorable win at Glanford Park in the Championship against Newcastle?
Relegation from the Championship, while not unexpected, was a realisation that the dream was over. A Tuesday night game in Plymouth, stood in the pouring rain (before the stadium was redeveloped), losing 5-0, then enduring a 4-5 hour drive home before getting up for work at 7.30am the next morning. Sitting at Cambridge whilst losing 3-2 on the penultimate game of the season, having to rely on Cheltenham winning their game to keep us safe.
Were you always aware of the milestone and has it been an ongoing thing to continue it?
We have kept track of it over the past couple of seasons but it didn’t seem that important, going to football is what we do every week. One or two people started asking us, so we worked it out. Since then, we’ve certainly become more nervous about missing a game!
What's the next target for you? 1000 and beyond?
We’ll take it a season at a time but 1000 has got to be the target … only just over 4 more seasons to go! However, we’re not actually too far off that when you take all competitions and play-off games of the last 17 seasons into account. We also like ‘collecting’ new grounds and have already seen SUFC at over 120 different venues. Our ultimate ambition would be to become part of the ’92 club’ following the Iron but accept that this relies on good luck with cup draws etc. We are currently 11 short of that target. Now let’s get promoted as there are 3 or 4 new ones waiting for us in the Championship next season!
Have there ever been any close calls when you nearly had to miss a game through one reason or another?
Miss a game? Over our dead bodies! However, there have been a few close calls that spring to mind. Firstly, an away tie at Bournemouth when a serious accident closed the A34 south of Oxford. When the traffic finally started moving again, we had 90 miles to cover in 90 minutes. We made it, of course, but only because a very kind steward allowed us to park virtually outside the front door! We ran through the turnstiles just as the ref blew his whistle for the start of the game. Also, the FA cup game at Chelsea (the first time) when all trains into London terminated at St Albans. Several buses and a tube journey later, we and our group of friends rolled into Stamford Bridge with only 5-10 minutes to spare. The most recent scare was only this season when, due to work commitments, Richard would have been unable to make the return fixture had the FA Cup game against Southend gone to a replay. No fear though, Tracey would have made it - much to Richard’s annoyance! Rarely has a winning goal meant so much to just one person - thanks Paddy!
Knowing that the Chairman is aware of your incredible run and that he's rewarded your support with 12th Man packages for the 16-17 season, what is your reaction to that?
This is a very kind gesture from the Chairman and something we did not expect. In our case, we don’t follow the Iron for any reward or financial gain (and rather hoped that this milestone would slip under the radar) – it is merely for the love of the club and the game. Thanks Peter for supporting us to support our club.
Best – undoubtedly St James’ Park (the one in Newcastle) for the atmosphere alone (although we have happy memories of the one in Exeter too) or Stadium MK for the best seats anywhere. Worst – York City. Those chaps who have ever needed to ‘spend a penny’ at Bootham/KitKat Crescent will know what we mean!
Best/worst away days
Best – Torquay United, a friendly and welcoming club. The worst has to be Blackpool - is there any point going? We’ve seen 2 drubbings there (6-0 and 5-0) and couldn’t even beat them home or away the season we won the league!
We once got asked for directions by a tourist in London when we were wearing the black and green hooped away kit – we’re sure she thought we were the Police!
For Richard it’s Peter Beagrie – however did he end up with us? He could skin a player 5 times in one move! For Tracey, Andy Crosby – a superb defender and the epitome of leadership.
John Gayle’s net-buster at Cambridge after a lung-busting run down the wing. Nathan Stanton scoring his first (and last!) goal for the club in a play-off game at Lincoln to bring it back to 3-3 (we lost the game 5-3). And who can forget Jermaine Beckford’s goal against Rotherham?
What we love about SUFC and the beautiful game
We are a club that doesn’t stay put, up or down we are always moving. In this run we’ve seen 5 promotions, 4 relegations and 1 failed play-off attempt. We’ve also made a lot of really good friends who share the same passion for our club. So why do we continue to go? Perhaps it’s an addiction, or maybe we might just miss that one 10-0 victory (or defeat). Or perhaps we have to go (as we often joke) because we’ve already bought the tickets!
Congratulations to the pair who continue to devote their schedule tirelessly around the Iron, not only travelling from Derby to Scunthorpe for home fixtures, but also supporting the team on their travels as well.
Tweets by @SUFCOfficial