“My integrity as a physio was questioned. I was not prepared to allow unfit players to play, putting their career and my reputation at risk”
– Roy Bailey
One of my poignant memories in football happened whilst on holiday in Blackpool in the summer of 1995.
I always find it difficult to switch off from football and like every other close/pre-season, that year was no different.
Never one to not keep abreast of news from the game, I always buy an evening paper from the holiday destination of choice.
That summer I found myself reading about the north-west clubs in the days when Fleetwood Town were battling to survive and Morecambe were also a non-league club.
So, I bought the Blackpool Gazette and the Manchester Evening News for the gossip on clubs in the area. I read a story about a physio by the name of Roy Bailey coming back to Maine Road under chairman Francis Lee after an unceremonious sacking by previous manager Peter Reid four years earlier.
Picture the scene: It’s a hot sticky evening at the end of July. Manchester City are playing Stockport County in a pre-season friendly, and 5,000 City fans are sweating it out in the Cheadle End at Edgeley Park to check out the boys in blue. The football isn’t anything to shout about, though, and the crowd are understandably subdued.
But then something happens. One of the City lads goes down injured, and onto the pitch sprints the man with the bag. A loud cheer goes up from the City fans, followed by “There’s only one Roy Bailey, One Roy Bai-ley!!” The subject of all the attention acknowledges the fans with a sheepish smile and a quick wave before making his way back to the dug-out.
After his four-year exit from Main Road, City’s popular physio was back in business.
Roy gave 20 years as the club’s medical man and was one of the most well-known figures at Manchester City before his sacking by Reid – a move that shattered both him and his family.
He reflects on that fateful day as being one of the worst days of his life a feeling that he will never forget – it wasn’t only his job it was his way of life.
You throw yourself into it full-on working seven days a week whether that be spent travelling, staying in hotels, working nights or Bank Holiday.
This includes Christmas, Easter. Family engagements like weddings, birthday and engagement parties all have to take a back seat during the football season.
Family life suffers. I was speaking recently with Rosalind Jenkins, the wife of former West Ham Physio Rob Jenkins who followed his father at Upton Park and was with them for 25 years.
Some of the older Hammers supporters may recall a story he told about an FA Cup tie away at Blackpool in 1971 when he, Bobby Moore, Clyde Best, Brian Dear and Jimmy Greaves were out on the Friday night.
He said: “Mooro would often pop into someone’s room the night before a game, have a couple of beers and watch a bit of telly.
“He was notoriously a bad sleeper and with no sleeping tablets at hand, we all went for a walk and ended up in Brian London’s club and had a couple of beers.
“It was nothing serious and we were back at the hotel for a pot of tea and sandwiches pre-match the next day.
“Unfortunately, the night porter called a newspaper and blew the cover and the 4-0 thrashing didn’t help their cause. I think Manager Ron Greenwood told the board to sack me but they declined.”
Rosalind gave a frank insight of life as Rob’s other half, having to bring up the children on her own as Rob was away most of the time especially at weekends and she would attend all the social events on her own with the kids.
For Rob, his greatest moment was the FA Cup quarter-final against Arsenal in 1975.
He said: “We were enjoying a pre-match meal in the Tower Hotel. I remember gazing across the Thames at Tower Bridge with the sun shining and thinking to myself; ‘This is going to be our day’.
“It would soon be our year.” (The Hammers beating Fulham in the final).
These guys worked 11 months of the year. I remember former Aston Villa Physio Jim Walker telling me he had to switch his phone off in the month of June so he could have a break.
They had the right values and ethos that the football physio needs to be equipped with including specific knowledge and all that brings a complete package to the football dressing room.
To use a football parlance nearing extinction in this millionaire era these guys have been great servants to the game – a role that is much more than treating knocks and strains and easing aches and pains, Mr fix-it, minister for morale and court jester.
For decades they played the endlessly resourceful Jeeves to a succession of managers and players, always on hand to soothe away every sticky situation.
During the last close season alone, no fewer than 25 medical staff left jobs across the professional game. The thread continues with both Leicester City and Southampton physios departing their respected clubs in recent weeks.
The days of old Fred running on with the bucket and sponge are long gone. But a similar ethos endures. A true love of the game an all its trials tribulations remains.
The dressing room remains the physio’s domain once the manager has said his piece and there are strict standards to adhere to.
But like Roy Bailey said “There is little doubt that my relationship with Reid and Ellis degenerated when my integrity as a physio was questioned.
“I wasn’t prepared to put my players’ careers, and also my reputation, at risk. It made my position very difficult because players would see it as my decision, not the management’s.”
Roy’s departure from the club left him a void, and it took him a long time to come round from the shock.
The relationship between a football manager and his physiotherapist is a bit like a marriage, I suppose. If it’s going to work, it has to be based on the fundamentals of mutual trust, respect and understanding.
There are bound to be tiffs along the way – one party standing the ground over a point of discipline perhaps or the other claiming they know best to handle the youngsters – but a sound partnership will help them ride the storm.
Too many rocky patches, however – maybe due to personality clashes or differing opinions – and it just won’t last the distance.
Like Malcolm McDonald when manager of Fulham said about his physio Derek Wright “A good physio is like an agony aunt or confidant to players, and, as a manager, I learned never to ask a physio too many questions.
“He understood football and footballers. The bond between players, manager and the coaching staff is important as is developing craft knowledge. It is so much more than Saturday afternoon sitting in the dug-out with your boots on and your bag.”