We owe you one...
By Ian Grant
Dennis Bailey was a former youth trainee at Watford, playing alongside the likes of Nigel Gibbs in 1983/84. He ended up playing for QPR, most notably scoring a hat-trick against Manchester United during a career that was dogged by injury. He arrived on loan to Watford in 1994, at a time when the club was fighting a desperate, and seemingly losing, battle against relegation.
He's much, much more than a minor footnote in the club's history. The stats (two full appearances, six as a sub, four goals) might not say much about Dennis Bailey but they hide a piece of heroism that will live long in the memory.
Bailey is not alone, of course. The players who turned the tide at the end of the 93/94 season will all be remembered - Colin Foster, Keith Millen, Tommy Mooney, Dennis Bailey. All four of them played a crucial part in that mighty escape - Foster and Millen stemmed the tide of goals; Mooney made us believe that we could do it; Bailey scored at crucial times to earn the points. There were others who did more than their bit for the cause - Paul Furlong and Andy Hessenthaler spring to mind - but they'd been around for the whole season, associated with the struggle as well as the escape.
Dennis Bailey had a talent - he could score goals. Obvious, I know. But it was as if he was lucky for us - he could get the ball into the net even if it involved deflections off three defenders and the keeper's backside - and the fact that he spent most of his time on the bench only added to that 'lucky mascot' feeling. That meant so much after a season in which everything seemed to go against us (this was the season in which we received seven red cards, remember).
In truth, his all-round play was pretty abysmal. He was unfit as I recall but, even so, he tended to be rather Moralee-like in falling over and generally looking lightweight. It didn't matter, though - if you score four vital goals then you can be as lightweight as you want. Besides, we brought him in as a goalscorer, pure and simple - he did exactly what it said on the tin, so to speak.
It made the difference. The goal against Leicester got a point and made us feel better; that goal at Peterborough was so important it was ridiculous; and he set the ball rolling against Southend. Instead of playing okay and losing, we were playing okay and punishing our opponents - Bailey, like Furlong, had that killer instinct around goal.
In the end, he returned to QPR after his loan spell. Roeder decided to sign Mooney instead of Bailey - in my opinion, and despite all I've said here, I think that was the right decision. Bailey might have been a goalscorer but he was no centre forward - he wouldn't have been an adequate replacement for Furlong in any way. He was getting on a bit too. He moved onto Gillingham where, as far as I know, he still is. That means we'll be playing against him next season - I very much hope we'll be giving him the respect he deserves.
It isn't his fault that the club continued to drift after his departure, eventually succumbing to relegation last season. He did all he could, and then some. We owe you one, mate...