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Couple go 1,000 games consecutively watching Scunthorpe United

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Richard and Tracey Bailey attended their 1,000 consecutive Scunthorpe game as the Iron recorded a 3-0 win over Northampton Town at Sixfields last weekend. We caught up with Tracey shortly after the couple had reached the amazing milestone!

How long have you been supporters of the Iron and where did it all begin? Presumably you were fans before the run started?

Being born and bred in Scunthorpe, I’ve been a life-long supporter but Richard is a relative newcomer having only supported them since 1993. When we first met, Richard supported Hereford United and the appeal was to visit as many different grounds as possible so we tended to alternate away games between the two teams. However, we all know how things ended for Hereford, so we decided to offer our unwavering support to the iron!

Last weekend’s league game against Northampton was your 1000 consecutive game watching Scunny. When did you sit down to work out how many games you had attended consecutively and as you approached 1,000 mark, did it put the pressure on a little bit to keep the run going?

We’ve kept track since we clocked up 800 league games at Sheffield United at the end of the season before last. Until then, it didn’t seem that important as going to football is what we do every week. At the start of this season, we new we would reach 1000 games sometime during the first half of the season (depending on cup games) and that’s when we did our official count …. then double-checked it …. and triple-checked it ….. Since then, we’ve certainly become more nervous about missing a game!

There must have been a time where you have nearly missed a game during the run due to circumstances outside of your control. Are there any close calls that spring to mind?

There have been a few close calls. Firstly, an away tie at Bournemouth when a serious accident closed the A34 south of Oxford. When the traffic finally started moving again, we had 90 miles to cover in 90 minutes. We made it, of course, but only because a very kind steward threw us into an executive parking space virtually outside the front door! We ran through the turnstiles just as the ref blew his whistle for the start of the game.

Also, the FA cup game at Chelsea (the first time) when all trains into London terminated at St Albans. Several buses and a tube journey later, we and our group of friends rolled into Stamford Bridge with only 5-10 minutes to spare.

The most recent scare was only a couple of seasons ago when, due to work commitments, Richard would have been unable to make the return fixture had the FA Cup game against Southend gone to a replay. No fear though, Tracey would have made it … much to Richard’s annoyance! Rarely has a winning goal meant so much to just one person … thanks Paddy!

Attending the games as husband and wife presumably makes it even more special for you but that’s an awful lot of time travelling together…

It’s a good job we like each other’s company!

Who does the driving and do you argue after a defeat?

We’ve always shared the driving 50/50 – I drive to the games, Richard drives back, with the added benefit that I get to snooze or sleep on the way home from a night game! Of course we often have a difference of opinion about a game we’ve seen but rarely argue about it. We’re more likely to give each other the silent treatment on the way home after a defeat!

You must have made some good friends along the way too?

Yes, we have. Some have turned into close, personal friends, others merely nodding acquaintances who we exchange a few words with, but we all have one thing in common – our love of the club and the game.

Do you ever think about how much you have spent travelling all over the country to go to the football?

We don’t really think about it. As we see it, it’s our hobby/interest and we probably spend no more on the football than someone else might do during a Saturday night on the town. We kept a spreadsheet back in 1999/2000 and I think it worked out at about £50 per game for the pair of us. It’s probably closer to £70-80 per game now. Perhaps we could do a 20th anniversary spreadsheet to see how the cost of football has changed over the years – that would make a good article!

Which games stick out as your favourites?

The 2-1 home victory over Newcastle in the Championship for the achievement alone; the memorable play-off semi-final penalty shoot out win over the MK Dons; the League 1 playoff final against Millwall is one of the greatest football matches we’ve witnessed, a game full of commitment and endeavour from both teams.

However, without question, we both agree that the best game of all was SUFC 1 – 1 Oldham. Leading 1-0, we were reduced to 9 men (the ref was Darren Deadman!) and a backs-to-the-wall display resulted in a 1-1 draw … a performance of champions in the title-winning season!

There have been some undoubted low points in that time too. Do you ever wake up on a Saturday and question what you are doing?

Not often, but yes there have been times. But after a while it becomes an addiction and it’s something you just have to do. Besides, we have to go if we’ve already bought the tickets!

Who are your top three players?

Everybody loves a striker and we’ve had some remarkable ones in our time. But my favourite players have to be Andy Crosby and Cliff Byrne because of their commitment and leadership qualities. Richard’s favourite has always been Peter Beagrie – he could never understand how he ended up at Scunthorpe, and we could never understand why he always had to try and skin a player 4 of 5 times before crossing a ball!

Favourite goals?

John Gayle’s net-buster at Cambridge after a lung-busting run down the wing. Nathan Stanton scoring his first (and last!) goal for the club in a play-off game at Lincoln to bring it back to 3-3 (we lost the game 5-3). Jermaine Beckford’s goal against Rotherham. More recently, that goal by Kevin van Veen.

How many football grounds have you seen SUFC play at?

Not sure exactly, but in excess of 120 if you include all the ex-league teams, other non-league teams and old and new grounds. We’ve seen Scunny play at 82 of the current 92. We’ve yet to see them play at 4 teams in the Championship and 6 in the Prem.

What is the funniest thing you have seen at a match?

We can remember a goose on the pitch in a home game against Rochdale. More recently, the uniformed SUFC chef (amongst others) sweeping away water from the goal mouth following a torrential downpour. Away from the pitch itself, we once got asked for directions by a tourist in London when we were wearing the black and green hooped away kit – we’re sure she thought we were the Police!

If you weren’t at the football, what would you be doing?

Certainly not shopping! We both have other hobbies which are usually reserved for Sundays and the summer months, so we would probably pursue them.

Now you have reached the 1,000 mark, have you got another target in mind?

I can’t see us stopping any time soon, unless something conspires against us, but we have no real targets in mind. We’d really like to be able to say we’d seen SUFC play at all 92 league grounds but that’s probably unlikely to happen without some very good fortune in the cup competitions. After all, there are still some clubs we have never played.

Written by Matt Blanchard

Part of the team since 2007, before becoming editor in 2013. Undertaken the role of match summariser during Scunthorpe United live match commentaries for BBC Radio Humberside. Seasonal contributor to football titles FourFourTwo and When Saturday Comes and a finalist at the Football Blogging Awards in 2014.

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