Next in the spotlight is a player who has gone on to play in the Championship for Charlton and Middlesbrough but it was Underhill that witnessed a wonderfully raw talent develop.
Nicholas Francis Bailey was born in Putney in June 1984 and was a youth at Fulham before joining Sutton United in the Conference South. He spent three seasons at Gander Green Lane scoring regularly from midfield which drew the attention of Barnet Manger Paul Fairclough in the Summer of 2004. A Tribunal set a fee of £10,000 for the 20 year old and he became Fairclough's first signing.
Bailey made his Barnet debut as an unused substitute against Forest Green Rovers at Underhill in the 3-1 opening Conference win on 14th August 2004 in the following line up;
Shane Gore, Ian Hendon, Ismail Yakubu, Simon King, Simon Clist, Dwayne Lee, Dean Sinclair, Richard Graham, Ben Strevens, Giuliano Grazioli and Liam Hatch. Subs: Ricky Millard, Nicky Bailey, Guy Lopez, Lee Roache and Tom Champion.
He made his playing debut in the following game against Farnborough Town scoring his first Bees goal in the 5-1 win against Morecambe.
By the Autumn Bailey had consolidated his regular first team place with a series of fine performances in what was a very talented squad. That season of course was our Conference winning season and Nicky's goal, live on Sky TV against Dagenham & Redbridge, was voted not only the Supporters Association Goal of the Season it was also voted the Conference Goal of the Season. It was described by the press “The outstanding Nicky Bailey received the ball from Graham twenty five yards from goal. Briefly looking up and seeing Roberts slightly off his line bailey went for the spectacular. Unleashing a glorious curling shot, which flew past everyone and flew straight into the top corner, a truly superb effort”
Nicky was also capped 5 times at England C level during the season, rewards for his endeavours, fully deserved.
The following season Nicky was again outstanding and was starting to attract serious attention from numerous Championship clubs. He was voted not only BFC Player of the Season and Young Player of the Season he also once again scored the most voted for goal at Bristol City in the League Cup. It was a amazing one man show boat goal dribbling from the corner flag to the six yard box before scoring. Paul Fairclough commented “"I can only liken Nicky's goal to Ricky Villa's famous goal for Spurs in the 1981 FA Cup final, dribbling with the ball at its highest class”.
Two weeks previously he had already shown his pedigree and development at Northampton Town (the evening the lights failed). He grabbed the winner bursting past defenders and drilling home for a Bees 2-1 win to cap a brilliant performance.
He has always said that the most exciting moment of his Barnet life was the night he walked out on Old Trafford's pitch to face Manchester United in the Carling Cup in October 2005. “A great bunch of players, real close pals, and we were devastated for Ross Flitney that evening (harshly sent off for a handball in the first minutes of the game) and Louis Soares (who was sacrificed for back up keeper Scott Tynan). It spoilt a wonderful occasion but it still gives me butterflies thinking about it” says Nicky.
The line up that evening for the record: Ross Flitney, Ian Hendon, Ismail Yakubu, Simon King, Adam Gross, Louis Soares, Dwayne Lee, Dean Sinclair, Nicky Bailey, Ben Strevens, Giuliano Grazioli. Subs: Scott Tynan, Liam Hatch, Damien Batt, Anthony Charles, Richard Graham.
2006/7 saw Nicky miss just two games all season helping Barnet to a mid table place in League 2. However at 23 the time was right for him to progress. Southend United had been regular viewers since the transfer window in January and made finally Barnet an offer of £175,000 in June 2007. With a sigh, the fans at Underhill had to let go.
His final game in amber and black was on the 5th May 2007 in the following line up which beat Wycombe Wanderers 2-1 (Viera and Sinclair) at Underhill;
Lee Harrison, Joe Devera, Ian Hendon, Simon King, Adam Gross, Nicky Bailey, Dean Sinclair, Barry Coogan, Jason Puncheon, Adam Birchall, Oliver Allen. Subs: Ross Flitney, Liam Hatch, Giuliano Grazioli, Nicky Nicolau and Magno Viera.
After another Player of the Year award at Roots Hall, Championship Charlton Athletic placed a bid of £750,000 in June 2008 – Nicky became a Addick and ended up once again as Player of the Season and this time top goalscorer too.
June 2010 saw a £1.4 Million move to Middlesbrough where he captained the team and made close to 100 appearances. Bailey was converted to a more defensive minded midfielder at the Riverside and was very popular with the fans. His contract expired in June this year and a closed season move to Millwall has allowed Nicky to return South where we can expect him to carry on his success and no doubt become a favourite at the Den too.
A happy family man, Nicky was often found in the Durham Suite after games with his partner proudly showing off his offspring with a huge grin on his face – nice times.
He was also one of the first players to contact me to offer his services when arranging a Charity Golf Day to benefit Bees supporter “Donny Gaz” in his time of need. Say no more.
Underhill had not seen the likes of a terrier-like Bailey in its midfield since the early days of Paul Wilson, Derek Payne or long before that Barry King. With drive, power and technically good on the ball Nicky offered so much and one can see why his comrades at the time at Barnet spoke so highly of him - Lee, Sinclair and Bailey is up there with the most powerful engine rooms the club has had the opportunity to field certainly in my time as a supporter.
Nicky Bailey - Appearances 154 Goals 22