Vinny Bailey celebrated making his 100th appearance for Atherton Collieries as they beat Runcorn Linnets with a last minute winner in The FA Cup.
The midfielder arrived two years into Michael Clegg’s regime and at the time he didn’t seem to fit the ‘Colls model’ of being a local lad, playing for his local team. Up until Bailey’s arrival, all of the first team lived within 5 miles of the ground. It showed just how strong the 27 year olds character was to fit in with the rest of the squad so quickly when he joined on loan from Chorley. “I came down here to get some game time and didn’t know what to expect. I always remember Cleggy telling me it’s such a tight bunch of people and once you come here you’ll never want to go away.”
He made his debut in a 5-1 home victory over Bacup Borough in February 2016. His first goal arrived a month later in a 6-1 demolition of AFC Darwen, under the lights here at Alder House. Mark Battersby played him through and Bailey took the ball around the goalkeeper to equalise as Colls got one over one of their old foes.
That month, Colls scored 24 goals as they tried to keep up with Colne and Runcorn Linnets at the top of the NWCFL Premier Division. Ultimately, Colls finished third and won the league cup after hammering league champions Colne 5-1 at Fleetwood Town. Bailey didn’t feature in the final but he became a permanent fixture in the side the following season.
Speaking after last Saturday’s match, Bailey looked back on that 2016/17 campaign with fondness. “From my 100 games I don’t have a personal highlight as such or a favourite game. I really enjoyed the run that we had in the FA Vase though.”
“We played Penrith away and won 3-0 and then we went up to Shildon who were the Northern League champions and won 4-1. We went into those games as underdogs and we weren’t expected to win. They were massive games but we got through them and showed our quality.”
“The support during that run, and ever since, has been fantastic. Penrith and Shildon were long journeys but we were taking fans with us who were singing the whole time and getting the boys through it. It makes a massive difference on days like that and hopefully we can feel the same kind of atmosphere when we head to FC United in the next round of the FA Cup.”
While Vinny has uncertainly played his part in Colls progression over the past few years, he did leave the club for a short spell but returned months later.
“I went to Marine for half a season and I was enjoying myself there. They were playing the division above Colls but I spoke to Cleggy and I told him that I was always willing to come back here,” explained Bailey.
It was during the spell in Crosby that Bailey came back to haunt Colls, as he put in a man of the match performance against them and scored for Marine in The FA Trophy; a match which saw The Mariners win 5-1 before their fans celebrated by doing a conga around the shed at the far end.
Incredibly, Bailey made 41 appearances for Colls last campaign once again helping the club to a league title and he is focussed on helping the club again this season.