Jeff Bailey reflects on Vincentian football in the 1960s
One of this country’s best footballers during the 1960s, Jeff Bailey, holds the view that his club team Notre Dame, was one of the most talented set of players to have assembled as a local football unit.
Bailey, who has been residing in Canada for many years, has returned to St Vincent and the Grenadines, on a short vacation.
In an intreview with SEARCHLIGHT last Wednesday, Bailey noted that the quality of Notre Dame was exemplified by the fact that its players dominated the national team then.
Speaking of the much revered Notre Dame, Bailey said, “We were players who played against one another in primary school, so we knew one another’s abilities and we developed one of the best teams that was ever assembled in St Vincent and the Grenadines”.
“There were times when we had very good competition, like from Geest, Honveds and Saints and even though there were six or seven teams in the competition then, we played each other so often that we developed a rivalry… When Notre Dames played Honveds, the (Victoria) Park used to be filled,” Bailey reminisced.
Unllike, what is the case today, Bailey underscored, “Most of the teams back then had no coaches, everybody had to develop their skills by themselves, by practising, or get something they might hear from Trinidad … Our skill level at that time was very good and we did things during that period that are being done today… A lot of players think that’s new, but we did that in the sixties”.
Commenting on the prowess of Notre Dames in the 1960s, Bailey thumbed the “togetherness” and “commitment” of the team that distinguished them from the others.
“Then, we played for long hours, as there were those who practised at the Pastures (Grammar School playing field) and those who practised at the Victoria Park, but when we had club practice, we assembled at the Victoria Park, and before a match, we would come together, and all we talked about was football,” Bailey recalled.
“We also played the 4-2-4 system, as four at the back, two in the midfield and four up front… This was because we had very good players who can overlap and in attack we spread the ball, with at least nine players getting a touch of the football, and once we got to the arc, we would shoot the ball… That confused many teams that played against us,” Bailey related.
Bailey added that players of yesteryear, did not have the luxury of flat playing surfaces which exist today, and had to contend with the “hill” that characterised the configuration of the Victoria Park at the time, but conceded that it formed part of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ football folklore then.
“One match against Honveds, we were tied with about five minutes to go and we were coming up from the hill in the second half, and I got a cross from Douggie Doyle from the right side; the ball was coming in so low, I just had to dive and headed it into the goal to win that game,” Bailey remembered.
He though, rates the scoring of a penalty in his first match for the national team versus St Lucia in the Popham Cup at the Victoria Park, as the highlight of his national representation.
Bailey also diclosed his selection to a Windward Islands team that travelled to Suriname in 1965 to play some matches against that country’s national team, which at the time was one of the best in the region, as another of his “stand-out achievements” in his football career.
Looking back, Bailey, who began playing football with a team named Juniors, thumbed the Notre Dame team of the mid-1960s as among the best team he has played with.
That team included the likes of Leslie Ollivierre, David Hodge, Vincent Cupid, Sam De Bique, Norbert Hall, Douglas Cambridge, Rudolph Sutherland, Rudy Boucher, Fred Trimmingham, Dougie Doyle, Tyie Sam, along with Babs and Zupang Jones.
Bailey revealed that he is hopeful that while here, he will be able to share his knowledge with others about football in St Vincent and the Grenadines in the 1960s.