Former player revisits the club 50 years after joining
To mark the 50th anniversary of him joining the Gills, former player Ray Bailey recently returned to the MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
Bailey, who signed for Gillingham from Bedford Town on May 13, 1966, received a guided tour of the stadium and walked on the pitch to commemorate his return.
“The ground's changed massively since,” said the 72-year-old. “It's neat and tidy - exactly how you'd think a modern stadium should be.”
A versatile player, Bailey tended to play wing-half; a position slightly similar to modern wing-backs. His goal against Reading in a 1969 defeat saw him become the first substitute to score for the Gills, and he also netted a hat-trick against Tamworth in that season’s FA Cup.
“I grew up in a way,” Bailey said of his time at the club. “I got a lot of knowledge just by playing and everything else [that goes with being a professional].
“We probably didn't do as well as we should have done at times, but that's football. You can say that about a lot of teams today.”
Bailey’s career is also notable for the fact he played professional cricket for Northamptonshire while also a footballer.
“I played 11 years at Northamptonshire, and both clubs were fantastic,” he added. “They were happy to let me play both sports, there was no ill-feeling between them. I’m lucky to be one of 300 or so in the world that has been a “double pro”.
“The first Saturday in May was the football season end, and back then that was when the cricket started. At Northamptonshire, we shared a pitch with the football team [Northampton Town], so our season had to finish before the football began.”