South Shields FC stalwart wins prestigious unsung hero award

Richard Bailey with some of South Shields FC's young supporters at Saturday's game against Droylsden. Picture by Kev Wilson.
Richard Bailey with some of South Shields FC's young supporters at Saturday's game against Droylsden. Picture by Kev Wilson.

A football stalwart has had more than seven decades of tireless service honoured after being handed a prestigious award.

Richard Bailey, 84, of Sandalwood, South Shields, has been named as the BBC’s North East unsung sporting hero for 2017.

Former teacher Richard attended his first South Shields FC game in 1945, and has since held a variety of roles at the club, from supporter to committee member, and to his current role as vice-president.

Richard is now in contention for the national unsung sporting hero award, and will find out if he has won the gong when he attends the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony, which is being held in Liverpool on December 17.

He said: “I find it all very emotional – I’m just overwhelmed by it.

“This is a great honour and has caught me by surprise. To me, what I do is the simplest thing in the world, but to know that people appreciate me enough to put me forward for a big award like this is very humbling.”

As well as being the Mariners’ vice-president, Richard still helps out at Mariners Park on matchdays and non-matchdays, carrying out a variety of roles, from cleaning the dressing rooms to putting out the corner flags.

He has been with South Shields FC through the club’s greatest highs and most devastating lows, including a two-year spell at Peterlee which almost marked the end of the club.

Richard, who taught at Stanhope Junior School for 24 years, also ran junior football teams in his younger years, including Whiteleas Juniors and St Hildas Youth Club.

Colleagues at South Shields FC have paid tribute to the dad-of-two, grandad-of-two and great-grandad-of-two.

The club’s joint manager, Lee Picton, said: “His personality has never changed. He’s always doing whatever jobs he can, from putting the corner flags out to sweeping the changing rooms.

“He just does a myriad of jobs around the ground, and every football club needs people like Richard Bailey.

“He’s an absolute gem.”

Secretary Philip Reay said: “Without people like him, we wouldn’t have survived. He takes the pressure off everybody else, because he does the little things and allows us to get on with our jobs.”

Vice-chairman Gary Crutwell added: “Every time he’s down at the ground, the brush is out and he makes sure the place is spotless.

“He really is a top lad and thoroughly deserves this award.”